Abstract: The Making of Japanese Patent Culture: The Impact of MNEs' Local Patent Management

Shigehiro Nishimura


This paper clarifies Japanese patent culture from the viewpoints of patent management and international business history. We examine the cases of Westinghouse Electric and Mitsubishi Electric. Although Westinghouse granted exclusive licenses to Mitsubishi, it controlled its Japanese patents directly through its own patent agent. Therefore, positive influences of Westinghouse's international patent management on Mitsubishi were limited. Rather, Mitsubishi developed its patent management comparatively independently. In 1923, Mitsubishi appointed a person to be in charge of patent affairs exclusively, followed by the formation of a patent section. In 1935, the patent department began administrating patent applications internally. Mitsubishi accumulated the organizational capability to apply for and administer a volume of patents in the course of technical tie-ins with Westinghouse. This is the context of the creation of a Japanese patent culture. On the enforcement side, Mitsubishi Electric created a reconciliation system with competitors. Japanese electrical companies did not claim their rights strongly, but instead acted harmoniously toward each other. The conciliation system consisted mainly of Mitsubishi, Shibaura Works, Hitachi, and Fuji Electric. This represents another feature of Japanese patent culture.