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2008年5月13日 (火)

スラチャイと英語を勉強しましょう!

05/13/2008

EDITORIAL: Protecting smaller firms

日本の技術―「弱者」の知恵を守ろう

This year's white paper on small and medium-sized companies focuses on how such firms, which are unable to match their larger rivals in capital or manufacturing capacity, can overcome their competitive disadvantages.

The report, compiled by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, urges small and medium-sized firms to make strategic use of information technology, expand their exports and overseas operations and complement each other through networks involving players from industry, government and academia.

新しい中小企業白書は、大企業にくらべて資本や設備の力が劣る中小企業が、ハンディをどう補うかに焦点を当てている。期待されるのが、IT(情報技術)を導入し、輸出や海外進出を進め、産官学のネットワークで相互補完する、といった努力だ。

But there are many problems confronting these companies that are not referred to in the white paper but which still need to be tackled immediately. One of them concerns intellectual property--the patents, trade secrets and other proprietary information that give a competitor the edge.

だが、白書が言及していない問題点で、早急な取り組みが必要なことも少なくない。そのひとつが、特許など知的所有権の問題である。

Many small and midsized companies in this nation have developed highly sophisticated technologies and techniques that even their much larger competitors cannot match--products of many years of focused efforts. Such small but hot-shot high-tech companies receive orders from all over the world, well beyond the boundaries of corporate grouping.

中小企業の中には、長年にわたって特定の技術に磨きをかけ、大企業にもまねのできない高度な技を獲得しているところも少なくない。そんな企業には企業系列の枠を超えて、国内だけでなく世界中から注文が舞い込む。

hotshot=有能な、やりての)

Their competitive edge, however, is often threatened by technology theft and other unfair practices by large Japanese companies.

A relatively small manufacturer of precision instruments, for instance, has many stories to tell about its original technologies being imitated by Japanese giants.

ところが、そこに大きな壁として立ちはだかっているのが、実は日本国内の大企業なのである。

精密機器のある中小メーカーは、独自の技術を大企業に模倣される経験を何度も味わっている。

competitive edge=有能な技術力)

While pursuing patent rights on its technology to manufacture reticular parts used in next-generation flat-panel TV displays, the company explained it to a large Japanese electric appliance maker, based on a confidentiality agreement. The smaller company was then surprised to see its partner apply for a patent for that very technology as if it had developed it. The subsequent patent dispute was submitted to the Patent Office.

次世代薄型テレビの画面に必要な網状の部品を作る技術について、特許の出願中に、大手電機メーカー秘密保持契約を結んだうえで説明したところ、大手メーカーが自社の特許として後から出願してきた、という。争いは、特許庁の審判に持ち込まれた。

The lightweight company has had similar unpleasant experiences with other manufacturing heavyweights over components for medical equipment and semiconductor testing equipment. The president of this relatively small company is angry about the way these major manufacturers tried to steal its technologies.

"Foreign companies are more seriously committed to complying with intellectual property contracts and related legislation. Large Japanese companies appear to regard technologies of smaller firms as something they can obtain for free," the president said.

In many cases a formal agreement is useless because smaller companies usually can't afford to fight costly and time-consuming court battles with corporate giants. So they often have no choice but to suffer in silence when they get raw deals from big hitters.

医療機器半導体検査装置の部品でも、別の大企業から同じような苦い思いをさせられている。

この中小メーカーの社長は「外資の方が知的所有権の契約や法令をきちんと守る。日本の大企業は、中小企業の技術を盗み得と考えているのではないか」と怒りを隠さない。契約があっても、裁判になると経営の体力と時間を消耗するので、中小企業は泣き寝入りを強いられることが多い。

Obviously, it is necessary to make the system for protecting intellectual property rights easier to use for light- and middleweight businesses. The Patent Office should take steps to make sure that the claims of smaller firms are fairly treated in patent disputes. Many of the technologies owned by small and midsized firms have grown out of employees' efforts to improve the manufacturing process. Unlike in cases of innovations born in corporate laboratories, technological development on the shop floor is usually not documented in accurate records. It is, therefore, vital to ensure that insufficient documentation will not translate into a disadvantage for small companies in patent disputes.

したがって、知的所有権保護の枠組みが中小企業にとって使いやすくなるよう、手直しする必要がある。

特許の紛争が起きた場合、特許庁は中小企業の言い分にもきちんと耳を傾ける体制を整えるべきだ。中小企業の技術は現場での工夫から生まれたものが多く、研究室にくらべ開発過程の記録が残りにくい。それが不利にならないような配慮が欠かせない。

The authorities also need to deliver swiftly a verdict when an intellectual property dispute arises. A prolonged legal battle inevitably costs money.

Such disputes should not be allowed to become battles of financial power.

また、争いになったら素早く結論を出すことも大切だ。紛争が長引けば、比例してコストもかさむ。体力勝負に持ち込ませてはいけない。

The government should also consider creating a new compensation system for small and medium-sized companies that win in intellectual property disputes. The system should allow the winners to receive, without fresh litigation, adequate compensation for the losses they have suffered from larger offenders.

中小企業が紛争に勝ったら、特許の侵害などで失った利益を、改めて裁判に訴えなくても大企業が賠償する制度を導入したらどうだろうか。

litigation=訴訟)

The aim is to discourage large companies from running the risk of losing in patent litigation just to hamper a rival's operations.

特許を侵害して訴訟で負けても相手を邪魔できればいい、という考え方を封じるのだ。

hamper=阻止する、邪魔する、妨害する)

Competitive small and medium-sized companies are a foundation for Japan's technological prowess. If large companies fail to appreciate this important source of innovations, they will end up using their own hands to strangle themselves.

優秀な中小企業は日本の技術力の土台になっている。そこを大切にしていかないと、大企業はやがて自分の首を絞めることになるだろう。

strangle=押さえつける、抑圧する)

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 12 (IHT/Asahi: May 13,2008)

朝日新聞5月12日号 (英語版 2008年5月13日発行)

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