A Prophet Is Not Without Honour Except In His Own Country

One of the most creative scientists in semiconductors, Jun’ichi Nishizawa, filed a patent application for a PIN diode when he was a 23 year-old graduate student at Tohoku University.

A few days later, Bob Hall of GE filed for a similar patent.

Nishizawa was perturbed when Japanese companies which set out to manufacture PIN diodes preferred to license the GE patent rather than his patent even though the royalties on the GE patent were higher.

He asked the companies why and they told him that their customers would prefer to buy something which said it had been licensed from GE of the US rather than something which had been licensed from Jun’ichi Nishizawa of Tohoku University.

So, 60 years ago, started what many Japanese call Japan’s ‘Galapagos Islands’ mentality – a kind of reverse NIH mind-set – whereby nothing invented locally could be commercialised until it had been validated by being made abroad first.



  1. SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

    A patent application is secret until it is published 18 months after filing so you could have two granted patenst 18 months apart. Normally examination is done after 3 – 7 months of filing, to avoid such collisions so realistically two patents could be about a year apart in filing date.

    Nobody likes double patenting, however this is a direct consequence of the 18 months secrecy period applicants get to protect small companies from being overrun by established companies in their fields. With 2 patents both patent proprietors could demand a license assuming the claims read on the actual product.

  2. ah yes thanks grax that was what I meant to say

  3. “… nemo propheeta in patria…” a 2k year old roman proverb

  4. If the second patent is filed whilst the first is within its 12 months of being confidential I think both can be granted even if they cover the same thing.

  5. So the two patents were sufficiently different that Nishizawa could not sue GE?
    Patents are a racket anyway. The most $$$ wins.

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