Shuji Nakamura wins the patent he made while at Nichia for blue light-emitting diodes.

“Japan is treating people as though they’re all robots,” he told reporters last year. “I’m so lucky I work in the United States. I can’t imagine working in Japan again.” “The judicial system in Japan is rotten,” Nakamura said. “I am outraged. That’s all I have to say.”

Finally the Salaryman wins.
The legal battle between Nichia and former employee Shuji Nakamura over the patent related to the blue light-emitting diode, received wide attention in Japan as a symbol of the fight between a powerful company and an ordinary “salaryman.”

Nichia Corp. claimed it wanted to avoid fees to maintain the patent because updates in the technology make it no longer needed.

Since the lawsuit was filed by Nakamura in 2001, the company argued that his patent was one of many and was not crucial for the technology widely used in traffic signals, mobile phones, large screens and next-generation DVDs.

Nakamura, who quit Nichia and is now professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, argued that his research and key patent that became the center of the legal wrangling was a critical key step in the highly lucrative lighting technology. He became a bit of a hero here, appearing in talk shows and TV ads.

In 2004, Nakamura won a landmark ruling in Tokyo District Court, which awarded him 20 billion yen (US$170 million; euro142 million) in compensation for the disputed patent. The court said in its ruling the invention was so lucrative it was worth more than what it had awarded — the amount Nakamura had demanded in his lawsuit.

He never got the money awarded because Nichia appealed to a higher court. Nakamura reluctantly settled for 840 million yen (US$7 million; euro6 million) in compensation last year. At that time, he said he wanted to take his fight all the way to the Japanese Supreme Court but his lawyers advised him against it.

Finally his persistence has paid off.