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March 9, 2006

Blue LED

Back in 1990, Shuji Nakamura, working for Nichia in Tokushima, southwest Japan, developed the blue LED. It was a crucial breakthrough, paving the way for LED screens, and with other uses as well. Nakamura was compensated ¥20,000 ($170) for the patent that came from his work. He wasn't satisfied.

So Nakamura left Nichia, and sued his former employer in 2001, charging inadequate compensation for his invention. In 2004, the Tokyo District Court awarded Nakamura ¥20 billion ($170 million) as compensation for the disputed patent, based on an estimated profit of ¥120 billion by Nichia from sales of blue LEDs.

Of course, Nichia appealed. So, in January 2005, Nakamura reluctantly settled for ¥840 million ($7m), and vented his bitterness: "Japan is treating people as though they're all robots. The judicial system in Japan is rotten. I am outraged. That's all I have to say."

Nakamura is now a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and has sworn never to work in Japan again.

The Nakamura case has had an impact in Japan. An amended patent law, which took effect last April, calls for companies to discuss with employees valuation of their patented inventions. Considering precedent, the net effect should be for employees to receive some compensation for their inventions.

In the U.S., high-tech employees are routinely required to forfeit any patent rights, often to practically any invention created while employed, regardless of whether it is job related; though it is common to fete an employee's patent with a modest gratuity, such as Mr. Nakamura got. Nakumura's case would likely have been laughed out of court in the U.S.

Posted by Patent Hawk at March 9, 2006 9:29 AM | International


This is a good one !!!!

"Japan is treating people as though they're all robots" ha-ha-bha-ha-ha

As far as I know, an employee of a company like Lucent or Motorola normally receives one thousand bucks for every patent filed...

No wonder those guys file so many junk patents a year - you really need to file A LOT of patents to make enough money to pay for e.g. your toilet remodel...

And this is one of the reasons why US has so many little "patent trolls" like me.
I would rather work as a shit collector than be a slave to any of those BS non-compete agreements...

At least, it is me (and a whole bunch of lawyers) who will be profiting from my own inventions, not some greedy corporate CEO or VP.

Posted by: little guy at March 9, 2006 10:36 AM