Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan
Industry sector: E-commerce
A relatively young company founded in 1997, Rakuten is a central player in Japan’s internet industry. It operates Rakuten Ichiba, the largest e-commerce platform in the country, and has been expanding into foreign markets through acquisitions and joint ventures since 2005. Over the past five years, it has also been one of the world’s most prolific patent buyers, a distinction that makes it an extreme rarity among large Japanese companies. According to data from Allied Security Trust, between 2010 and 2014, Rakuten was on the receiving end of 27 transactions which saw it take possession of 659 total patents. Only one Asian operating company – Samsung – did more deals during that period, and Rakuten came in ahead of major IP players like Microsoft and Intel. The company has remained active in the intervening year as well: in 2015 alone, it has been assigned patents from the likes of JVC Kenwood, NEC, IBM, and AT&T. It is a common model for internet companies to amass patents through acquisitions quickly after gaining a big market share, and Rakuten has shown itself to be more than capable of using that strategy.