The Tokyo District Court ordered seasoning maker Ajinomoto Co. on Tuesday to pay 189.35 million yen to a former employee for the transfer of patents on a production method for an artificial sweetener.
The sum is far less than the 2 billion yen Masayoshi Naruse, 63, the former employee, had demanded in his suit against the firm.
Naruse, former head of the process development division at Ajinomoto’s Central Research Laboratories, developed the production method for aspartame sweetener along with his colleagues in 1982.
Ajinomoto obtained 10 patents on the method, in Japan, the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Under in-house rules for remuneration for patent transfers, Ajinomoto provided Naruse and others with 12 million yen for the development in 2000.
Aspartame is a low-calorie artificial sweetener about 200 times as sweet as sugar, occupying around 40 percent of the world’s sweetener market. Ajinomoto has sold aspartame under the PalSweet brand and licensed other companies to use its production method.
Tuesday’s decision followed two key rulings earlier this year that ordered companies to pay massive compensation to their former employees for patent transfers.
On Jan. 30, the same court ordered chemical maker Nichia Corp. to pay 20 billion yen to Shuji Nakamura, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, for his transfer to the firm of patents on the blue light-emitting diode he developed while working at Nichia. The award was the largest ever in Japan for patent transfers. Nichia has appealed the ruling with the Tokyo High Court.
One day earlier, the Tokyo High Court ordered Hitachi Ltd. to pay around 163 million yen to a former employee for the transfer of patents on technologies for reading data on optical disks.