Fable: The Researcher Who Did As He Liked

26 years a relatively unknown company allotted $3.3 million representing 1.5% of its sales revenues to a young researcher to develop a blue LED.

“Of course it was a big risk,” said the CEO, “but risk is synonymous with research. Unless you let your young researchers do whatever they like, they can’t do research.”

On Nov 29th 1993 the unknown company announced to the media that they had developed a blue LED.

It was three years before anyone else could make one.

The researcher was awarded $180 by the company as a bonus for his invention.

He sued the company and the bonus was increased to $7 million.

Moral: The labourer is worthy of his hire.



  1. The fact that the case was brought and heard in the USA only after Nakamura had left Nichia, and that Nakamura only counter-sued for compensation after Nichia had originally sued Nakamura for infringing LED patents while working at UCSB, made it a complex case, SEPAM, and it would be interesting to know what, if any, precedents it set. Certainly there don’t seem to have been many like it since. You would think employers would have the emotional intelligence to decently reward employees who deliver an outstanding revenue earning opportunity. But they don’t. I remember when GEC gave anyone who filed a patent two shillings when a coffee in the canteen at Hirst Research Centre cost two shillings and sixpence.

  2. SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

    This story generated a lot of activity in the IPR world. I got a lot of inquries from all over the world regarding local laws regulating employee inventor compensation (normally regulated by an Employee Inventor Act).

    Interesting in not a good way, in the UK and US it is quite easy to steamroll an inventor, and inventors getting 180 dollars would frequently be considered an undue burden on executive bonuses. I find it a bit odd that the US has this system when US was to some extent settled by those wishing to escape European traditions of varying medieval-ness.

    In much of Europe there are employee inventor acts that requried inventors to be compensated for assigning inventions to their employers. This is also the case in Japan since they got much of their Patent Acts from Germany.

  3. Oh Yes, DontAgree, which is why there’s so little significant innovation

  4. times long gone I’m afraid … bean counters

  5. Yes indeed it is, and very rare, Terry, but he had to sue Nichia to get the reward

  6. Doctor Nakamura of Nichia? Good to see someone get a bonus who’s done something useful for the world.

  7. No Azzouz, ARMless got it right with Shuji Nakamura at Nichia

  8. Yes indeed, Nakamura it was, ARMless

  9. That would be Shuji Nakamura whilst at Nichia Corporation.

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