The R&D world in Japan was left flabbergasted in January 2004 by a judgement of the Tokyo District Court. Nichia, a relatively small Shikoku firm, was ordered to pay 20 billion yen (£100 million, only a little less than the firm’s total profits over the six years 1995–2001) claimed by its former researcher, Nakamura Shuji, currently a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara — and added for good measure that had he asked for it he would have been entitled to 60.4 billion yen. Nakamura had, while working for Nichia, invented a process for producing blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The sum was calculated to be the ‘appropriate price’ (which the Patent Law requires that employees should be paid) for his intellectual property. Those property rights he had automatically, as was the universal custom, transferred to his employer who claimed and received the ownership of the patent, and should therefore, according to the law, have paid the appropriate price.
KeywordsIntellectual Property Japanese Firm Market Individualism Wage System Consumer Sovereignty
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