Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

John Markoff quoted me in his New York Times article (thanks John!) on the lawsuit between Shuji Nakamura and the company he was working for when he did the research on and filed the patents for the blue LED. This is a landmark suit for Japan and should have some interesting reprecussions in the relationship between Japanese corporations and its researchers.

The New York Times
A Rebel in Japan Is Hailed as an Innovator in U.S. By JOHN MARKOFF

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 17 — Ordered to stop the scientific research he thought extremely promising, Shuji Nakamura hid the work from his superiors at a Japanese chemical company. He secretly obtained patents in the company's name.

Dr. Nakamura's mission paid off: his inventions revolutionized the world of consumer electronics. One helped make possible an array of products, from flat-panel computer screens to video billboards to long-lasting, efficient flashlights. Another will make it possible to store 5 to 10 movies on a single DVD-like disk.

Dr. Nakamura has been celebrated in the United States as an innovative pioneer. But in Japan he is more controversial. After it was clear his inventions would make a lot of money, his bosses took them to market without additional compensation for him. So Dr. Nakamura sued the company, claiming that the patents were a result of his efforts and he should receive royalties.

Joi's quote in the NYT

"This will teach researchers and companies alike to negotiate and make explicit rights and compensation in advance," said Joichi Ito, president and chief executive of Neoteny Company, a Japanese investment firm. "This is great because it will help force technical people to think about business and companies to think about incentives."

Generally researchers in Japan think that business (some call it the "money game") is dirty and I think the thought of suing a company or fighting for compensation is a bit beneath some researchers... Many researchers feel that the lack of compensation is a tradeoff for getting to do what they want without having to worry about business. This is changing. Companies are pushing researchers to think about returns and many there is general support to spin ventures out of universities and corporate research labs. The rights and the compensation are very unclear at this point and this case should push the debate forward...

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