Abstract: Patenting in the United Kingdom and Japan: Subsystems That Determined MNEs' Patent Policy

Shigehiro Nishimura


A comparison of GE's patent applications in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan shows that, by 1914, GE had applied for many patents in the first two countries, but that its patent applications in Japan were negligible. An essential condition for multinational enterprises to consider when filing a significant number of patent applications is whether they can develop a patent management organization and relevant capabilities in the local market. In the United Kingdom, patent management and controls were conducted by the GE Board, assisted by specific individuals, the patent department, law firms, and patent agents. The organization of patent management and controls by British Thomson-Houston Company, Ltd. (BTH) was done by key talent from GE. Indeed, many local resources existed that could be used for patent management and control; however, without an organization and the technologies that could combine them to serve as a patent management and control system, BTH would not have been able to take advantage of patents. In the case of BTH, the techniques were in part imported from GE at an early stage and then developed. In the case of Japan, GE's subsidiaries did not form a patent department until 1919.

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