What’s Inside Disney Patent Portfolio?

Disney has a total of 6045 patents in its patent portfolio and there are 3349 unique patent families. In this report, we will perform a technical analysis of Disney’s Patent portfolio to understand Disney’s portfolio development strategy. And picking up from where we left in our last post related to Disney, we will also investigate more into the impact of acquisitions on Disney’s patent portfolio.

So without any further ado, let’s get started!

Disney’s patent portfolio can be majorly divided into 9 technology categories based on 3349 unique patents. The following chart provides more details –

The technology categories in the chart above cover more than 80% of the total patents in Disney’s patent portfolio. The heavyweights are Animation and Media Streaming & Broadcasting They cover more than 25% of Disney’s patent families.

Share of Acquired Patents in Disney’s Patent Portfolio

Let’s check out how much impact various subsidiaries of Disney had on its patent portfolio.

We could see that M&A activity has helped Disney expand and diversify its technological portfolio as well. Evidently, 27% of Disney’s portfolio is associated with different Disney subsidiaries.

It would be interesting to see who are the leading Assignee in top technology categories or profiles. It will help in understanding the technology footprint of various Disney companies and the impact of their technology on Disney’s portfolio.

Technology trends through the years show that there has been an increased focus on Media Streaming & Broadcasting (Digital and television) from 2013 onwards.

One specific highlight from the above chart we noticed was that 60% of patents in Disney’s portfolio have been filed in the following four technology categories. These are the top focus for Disney, currently as well.

  • Media Streaming & Broadcasting ,  
  • Animation
  • User Profiles and Data Processing, 
  • Interactive Video Games

So to gain more insights into Disney’s patent portfolio strategy we need to dig deep into these technology areas.

Let’s pick them one by one and see the further subdivision of the technology categories. This will also help us identify the technology pockets which benefited most from Disney’s acquisition activity.

Disney Patent Portfolio: Animation (618 Patent Families)

The domain consists of more than 1100 worldwide patents which can be further divided based into the following sub-technology categories.

Generating 3D Animation Sequence (200 patent families)

This cluster covers patents related to generating and displaying 3D visualizations effects to render lifelike emotions and to create an animation sequence for virtual characters. Patent US5696892A of the cluster, for example, discusses a method to provide animation in a 3D virtual world. The patent has 448 Citations and 3 self-citations.

Editing 3D video and image (135 patent families)

Patents in this cluster are on applying or mapping surface detail or color pattern to a computer-generated graphic, geometry, or a 3D model. For example, inventions on electronic sampling techniques in computer graphics that make video image frames more realistic are in the cluster. Here is a patent by Pixar for your reference US4897806A.

Geometric transformation of 3D images (81 patent families)

Inventions on shape modifications of the 3D object, e.g. adding or deleting parts of the 3D object, shearing, free-form deformations are part of the cluster.

Patent US7042468B2 in the cluster, for example, is on displaying multidimensional images of a project under construction with overlays containing specific details. Such 4D models are very useful for architects.

Disney’s Subsidiaries with Most Number of Animation Patents

Disney’s patent portfolio related to Animation has grown organically over the years. They have been very instrumental in making Animation films mainstream.

The acquisition of Pixar in 2006 helped them diversify their Animation related patent portfolio. It is one of the key enablers of technology development related to Animation for Disney.

Evidently, Pixar has almost the same number of patents as Disney related to Animation.

This indicates that Pixar provided a much-needed boost to Disney’s Animation related patent portfolio making it the second most (trailing only to Media Streaming & Broadcasting) preferred technology category in terms of patent filings in recent times.

Disney Patent Portfolio: Media Streaming & Broadcasting (528 patent families)

There are 528 unique patent families related to Media Streaming & Broadcasting in Disney’s patent portfolio.

It is the second most crowded technology pocket of Disney and the most dominant technology category in terms of recent patent filings.

It outpaced Animation as the preferred pocket of Disney for patent filing in 2014 and since then it is the top technology category in terms of most patents filed in a fiscal year.

The technology category can be further divided into subcategories to see the focus areas of Disney. The following chart provides further sub-categorization.

Video on demand has received a maximum quota of patents in this category. This is understandable as more and more OTT platforms are gaining traction. HULU (2017) and Hotstar (2019) acquisitions by Disney also indicate a shift towards this approach.

Video on Demand (232 patent families)

Disney’s patents in Video on Demand cover inventions on interfaces that enable content interaction. Disney Enterprises, Hulu, and Fox have filed patents in this technology cluster.

Disney 1996’s patent US5931908A, for example, discusses using an overlay element to interact with viewers of telecasted content in real-time.

This overlay element can provide trivia related to an actor starring in a telecasted movie whenever (the celebrity appears on the display) and wherever (During opening credits of the movie) the invention has 529 patent citations and 8 self-citations.

Patents in this cluster belong to two subsidiaries of Disney ESPN and Hulu. The majority of patents cover Virtual Advertisement techniques. It is used in live sports events such as tennis matches, boxing, baseball, football, and during the telecast of pre-recorded TV shows.

Video Broadcasting and Projection (73 patent families)

Patent families in this cluster disclose systems that generate 3D or multi-view signals from cameras or provide 3D or multi-view signals to displays. It also covers the electronic signal processing aspects of such systems.

Patent US20030210329A1, for example, discusses the instant replay that we see while watching live sports events. Also, the third umpire review for run-outs we see in live cricket matches. The patent has 251 citations and 2 self-citations.

Another patent – US20100079585A1 – in the cluster talks about an interactive theater experience for a larger audience like in 4DX theaters.

Video Processing & Storage (44 patent families)

This cluster majorly consists of video codec patents for broadcasting or storage (e.g. at servers, set-top boxes, or hard disks) for subsequent reproduction.

Patents in the cluster disclose various compression schemes to reduce the transmission bandwidth and memory requirements for video data. The aim is to reduce storage requirements and to provide faster transmission. Here is a patent by Pixar for your reference US5734744.

Disney’s Subsidiaries with Most Number of Media Streaming & Broadcasting Patents

Disney Enterprises is the leading in terms of patent count but this is still a growing technology pocket of Disney. Media Streaming & Broadcasting became the new focus area for Disney in 2014 which helped it to increase the in house patent filing activity related to the technology. Already on track to expand the service and product portfolio related to Media Streaming & Broadcasting, acquisitions helped Disney diversify its portfolio.

Disney Patent Portfolio: User Profile and Data Processing (395 patent families)

The technology cluster has 395 patent families which can be further divided into sub-clusters as shown in the below exhibit.

Human-Computer Interaction (145 patent families)

This cluster covers inventions on gloves for hand or finger tracking, eye or head trackers, devices using bioelectric signals, etc. For Example, gesture-based interactions between a computer and a human hand.

The invention US6307952 for example is on finding a better way to detect the interaction of guests of a TV show. For example, in many quiz shows, the host picks the contestant who pressed a button faster than the others. The patent discloses a way to find who was first or fastest by detecting gestures like hand raising, waving, etc. The invention focuses on kids in general.

Search Query Management (111 patent families)

The inventions include patents related to details of query processing and the presentation of query results, e.g. automatic creation of multimedia presentations or documents as a result of a query, e.g. slide-shows, multimedia playlists, albums comprising various media types such as images, text, audio clips, video clips, etc.

Protecting Distributed Content (37 Patent Families)

The cluster has patents on protecting data or distributed content in an environment substantially outside the data owner’s control (or in a hostile environment). Such content may include television programs, movies, and/or video games.

What is a hostile environment? You ask.

Say, FT (Financial Times) has a server where paid users get a key that decrypts FT’s news articles to read. The articles are in a hostile environment, the computer of the user, where FT has limited or no influence, therefore the article needs to be protected by encryption.

US patent US10061905B2, for example, shares a secure way to enable content playback using a cryptographic function module (CFM). The cryptographic function module (CFM) generates an output using instructions from the content licensing agency. Twentieth Century Fox Studios holds this patent for Disney.

Disney’s Subsidiaries with Most User Profiles and Data Processing Patents

Hulu and Pixar appeared to be on the top charts. However, patents entitled to Disney Enterprises vastly outnumber both of them. The impact of acquisitions could be seen here as well. Although Disney is carrying the heavy burden itself.

Disney Patent Portfolio: Interactive Video Games (388 Patent Families)

The technology consists of 388 patent families which can be further divided into various sub-technology categories to understand the technology footprint.

Game Server & Gaming Devices Interactions

Inventions in this sub-cluster are related to computer hardware and software architecture which supports interactive multiplayer computer games.

Interaction between Gaming Devices (209 patent families)

The cluster covers inventions related to:

  • Hardware-related aspects of video games: accessories
  • Constructional details of game devices
  • Devices or playing video games

Interconnection between Game Servers (150 patent families)

The cluster covers inventions related to:

  • Software aspects of video games played locally or in a network
  • Mapping of input signals into game commands
  • The animation of the virtual camera in a video game
  • Indicators added to the game scene
  • time aspects of video games
  • Simulation of game objects or characters
  • Generation or alteration of the game content
  • Game management;
  • Provision of additional services to game players.

Game Security and Game Management Aspects (29 patent families)

This section contains patents related to Game security or game management using secure communication between game devices and game servers, e.g. by encrypting game data or authenticating players.

Disney’s Subsidiaries with Most Patents on Interactive Video Games

Disney is leading the chart here. Out of 388 total unique patents related to this technology, 347 belong to Disney itself. The growth here is mostly in-house but Metaplace has some seed patents in their kitty which could have been useful for Disney to develop upon.

Conclusion

Disney’s patent portfolio is quite diverse and contains patents assigned to various companies which Disney has acquired over the years. Most of the patents, however, are homegrown but Disney has been playing it smart by tactically diversifying their patent portfolio with the help of acquisitions.

Disney subsidiaries have made some hefty patent contributions in their respective technology pockets. For reference, Pixar has almost the same number of patents as Disney related to Animation. Similarly, Hulu and Fox, and Lucasfilms appeared in the top charts in their respective technology categories.

This provides us a clear insight into Disney’s patent portfolio strategy that acquisitions have enabled Disney to diversify its technology portfolio. This trend is even more apparent in the most populated and currently in focus technology categories of Disney, i.e. Animation, and Media Selection and Distribution.

That’s all about Disney. Stay tuned for more such content!

Updated on June 3, 2021

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