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2014年7月17日 (木)

社員発明の特許 「企業所有」で競争力高めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Corporate patent control essential to international competitiveness
社員発明の特許 「企業所有」で競争力高めたい

The government is faced with two parallel goals in developing and implementing new intellectual property policies—first, to encourage corporations to make better use of patent rights, and second, to motivate employees to create new inventions.
 企業の特許活用と社員の発明意欲を両立させる制度作りが課題だ。

The government has assembled a plan for promoting greater utilization of patents and other intellectual property rights.
 政府が、特許など知的財産のさらなる活用を目指す「知的財産推進計画」をまとめた。

In revealing its new policy, the government has said that corporations will be able to receive rights to patents for employee inventions if they meet certain requirements.
 ポイントは、社員が仕事で行った発明(職務発明)の特許権を、一定の条件で企業の所有とする方針を示したことだ。

Currently, companies must pay compensation to employees if they seek to obtain patents for their workers’ inventions.
 企業が職務発明の特許権を得るには、発明者に対価を払って買い取らねばならない。

The government’s new policy will rectify the status quo to grant corporations such patent rights when certain conditions are met.
For instance, companies will be required to ensure appropriate payments to employees for their inventions.
この仕組みを改め、発明者への適正な報酬を保証するなどの基準を満たした企業については、最初から特許権の所有を認める方向という。

Japanese corporations must be able to fully utilize inventions and patents as vital tools to achieve growth.
Being able to do so is essential for reclaiming the upper hand over international competitors.
 日本企業が国際競争を勝ち抜くには、成長の源泉である特許を最大限活用する必要がある。

Domestic companies today are dedicating a great deal of time and financial resources to supporting employee efforts in creating new inventions.
企業がコストと時間をかけて、社員の発明を支えているのも事実だ。

These circumstances give the government good reason to try to adapt the current system so it can support intellectual property strategies within the corporate sector.
 企業の知財戦略を後押しする制度改正の方向性は妥当だろう。

One driving factor behind the government’s latest policy is the seemingly endless number of disputes between corporations and employees over the size of fees paid for employee inventions made during work.
 背景には、職務発明への対価を巡る社員との紛争が絶えない実情がある。

A scrap between Nichia Corp. and a former employee over his invention of a blue light-emitting diode serves as a strong illustration of the pattern. The two reached a compromise to settle the dispute in 2005, with the chemical firm paying the inventor a little over ¥800 million.
日亜化学工業が2005年、青色発光ダイオードを発明した元社員に、8億円余りの和解金を支払ったのが代表例だ。

Even when corporations buy the patents for employee inventions, that does not necessarily mean that no dispute will erupt between the two sides. Inventors may choose to file lawsuits against the companies, asserting the payments received were not proportionate in light of the patents’ contributions to improved business performance, for example.
 企業が特許を買い取った後も、業績向上などの貢献に比べて対価が安すぎるなどとして、発明者が訴訟を起こす恐れは残る。

Balancing interests, incentives

If corporations still run the risk of being held responsible for massive payments for employees’ inventions, even after purchasing patent rights, there are potentially large hurdles to making progress. In fact, many companies have said, under such circumstances, it will be difficult to join hands with other companies in making new inventions and to sign licensing agreements with others.
 多額の対価支払いを迫られるリスクを抱えたままでは、他社との共同開発やライセンス契約を進めにくいという声も少なくない。

If corporations are allowed to retain patent rights on new inventions from their employees, the number of disputes over the fees paid to inventors is likely to decrease. Companies will also have greater latitude in devising business strategies.
 企業が最初から特許権を持てるようになれば、対価を巡る紛争は減ると見られている。経営戦略上の自由度も増すだろう。

However, there is concern that the government’s new intellectual property policy could prevent individual employees from obtaining patents for their inventions, and thereby leave those employees less motivated to make new inventions. If the new policy undermines morale among corporate researchers and hampers technological innovation, it would be a complete loss for both corporations and their workers.
 気がかりなのは、個人で特許を取得できなくなり、社員の発明意欲が薄れかねないことだ。研究部門の士気が下がり、開発力が衰えてしまっては、元も子もない。

There is also fear that talented corporate researchers could be headhunted by companies in emerging economies that may offer to pay hefty sums. This could cause so-called “hollowing out” of technical experts.
 優秀な研究スタッフが、新興国などに高額の報酬で引き抜かれる「人材の空洞化」も心配だ。

Bearing this in mind, it is important that the envisaged system should be designed to sufficiently reward successful corporate inventors with payments, promotions and other work incentives.
 十分な報酬や人事で報いる制度とすることが大切である。

The Japanese Trade Union Confederation called for patent-acquisition procedures to be implemented under the new policy to be studied in a manner satisfactory to employees, as they argue that “corporations have the upper hand over their employees.”
 連合は「社員の立場は会社より弱く、社員が納得する手続きを検討すべきだ」と主張している。

The government should listen to such voices and lay down standards for enabling companies to obtain rights to patents for employee inventions.
 政府はこうした意見も踏まえ、職務発明の特許所有を企業に認める基準を策定するべきだ。

Some corporations have already adopted a system of monetary rewards for employee inventions based on sales, profits and royalties accrued from their accomplishments. Such systems are intended to avoid disputes with corporate researchers over their inventions.
 一部の企業では、職務発明をめぐる争いを避けるため、発明が生み出した売上高や利益、特許料などの実績に応じて、報奨金を支払う仕組みを導入している。

We hope the government will work to design a new system acceptable to both corporations and employees, while studying and giving consideration to the measures already implemented in the private sector to reward corporate inventors.
 政府は、民間の先行的な取り組みを参考にしながら、企業と社員双方が受け入れやすい制度に仕上げてもらいたい。

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 16, 2014)

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