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Japan: Govt Aims to Ease Burden of Lawsuits on Companies
Source: the-japan-news.com
Source Date: Sunday, October 19, 2014
Focus: ICT for MDGs
Country: Japan
Created: Oct 21, 2014

The government’s plan to revise the Patent Law has been spurred by the mounting burden on companies as employees sue them to receive greater compensation for inventions they made as part of their work.

One major lawsuit in this area was brought by Shuji Nakamura, a 2014 Nobel laureate in physics, who sued his then employer Nichia Corp. in 2001. The company in Tokushima Prefecture and Nakamura, who is now a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, ultimately agreed to a settlement of about ¥800 million for his contribution to the invention of blue LEDs.

This lawsuit resulted in similar disputes between companies and corporate inventors seeking monetary rewards.

The government revised the Patent Law in 2004 to have companies incorporate inventors’ opinions when setting the amount of compensation they would receive for inventions.

This amendment reduced the number of lawsuits filed by corporate researchers against companies, but Sony was still slapped with an order to pay about ¥5.1 million to a former employee who invented home-use video game consoles for the company.

The employee had initially sought ¥100 million.

Different nations deal differently with patent rights involving employees’ inventions. Companies in the United States and Germany view such rights as belonging to employees, while they are seen as belonging to companies in Britain and France.

In either case, however, corporate researchers in foreign countries do not receive large amounts of compensation. Observers say the lawsuits filed by employees in Japan against employers seeking large rewards for their inventions are a rare phenomenon in the world.

In Europe and the United States, employees who invent important products often move to venture companies and other endeavors where they can receive significant compensation.

Observers said Japanese corporate culture — in which researchers tend to keep working at the same large companies — are also considered to be a factor in the lawsuits in Japan.
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