The Tokyo District Court on Friday ordered electronics maker Hitachi Ltd. to pay 34.89 million yen to a former employee as a reward for giving the firm patent rights to technology for reading information from optical discs such as DVDs.
According to the former employee’s lawyer, it is the largest figure ever awarded in connection with the transfer of property rights such as patents. The plaintiff, 63, had demanded some 970 million yen.
He is responsible for part of the technology.
The ruling may affect other lawsuits still going through the courts, as well as how companies treat employees involved in research and development of cutting edge technology, legal experts said.
Both parties expressed dissatisfaction with Friday’s ruling and were poised to appeal.
In handing down the ruling, Judge Yoshiyuki Mori said the amount that should be given to developers in return for relinquishing patent rights should be “the profits gained by the company thanks to monopolizing the invention minus the company’s contribution to the invention.”
Mori added that in this particular case, which involved three inventions, Hitachi reaped profits of some 250 million yen through such means as patent licensing fees. Based on this and other calculations, Mori awarded nearly 35 million yen to the former employee, who had received 200,000 yen as a reward from the company for the invention while he worked there.
The three inventions are also patented overseas, and the plaintiff had demanded that the worth of the patents abroad should also be worked into the calculations. However, the court ruled that the issue should be dealt with in line with the patent laws of each country.
According to the ruling, the former employee developed technology used in devices for playing DVDs and compact discs between 1973 to 1977 and transferred the patent rights to the company. He retired from the firm in 1996.
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