Nobel winner Nakamura extends olive branch to former employer Nichia


Shuji Nakamura, one of the three Japan-born scientists awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in physics, said Monday he wants to rebuild ties with his former employer, Nichia Corp., despite suing the chemical maker over patent rights to his groundbreaking blue LED technology.

The 60-year-old professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, thanked Nichia’s entire staff at a news conference in Tokyo after being presented with the Order of Culture by the government, expressing particular gratitude to Nichia President Eiji Ogawa and a team of six who contributed to the work on blue LEDs.

“My Nobel Prize was made possible because Nichia led the world in LEDs,” Nakamura said.

Tokushima-based Nichia saw financial success after filing a patent based on blue LED manufacturing technology developed in 1990 by Nakamura, though he was rewarded with a mere ¥20,000.

After leaving the company, Nakamura filed for compensation in the Tokyo District Court in 2001, which ordered Nichia to pay ¥20 billion in 2004. Nichia appealed to a higher court before reaching a settlement to pay Nakamura around ¥840 million in 2005.

Having been unable to deal directly with Nichia following the legal dispute, Nakamura said: “We had mutual misunderstandings. I don’t want to take this fight to the grave.”

He also pledged to give half his Nobel Prize money of around ¥40 million to the University of Tokushima, his alma mater, and thanked his mentor, Osamu Tada, now a professor emeritus, and others at the university for allowing him to use their facilities for several decades after graduating.

Nakamura, who was born in Japan but later acquired U.S. citizenship, shared this year’s prize with Hiroshi Amano, a professor at Nagoya University, and Isamu Akasaki, a professor at Meijo University in Nagoya.

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