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Nichia dispute 'will soon be settled'

17 Jun 2002

Blue-LED inventor Shuji Nakamura tells Optics.org that his technology could be available for license after May.

In August 2001, blue laser diode inventor Shuji Nakamura sued his former Japanese employer Nichia for USD 17 million in compensation and patent rights to the blue LED production technique that he pioneered. Now, less than a year later, he says the case will soon be over.

"The [Tokyo district court] judge will make a decision as to whether the patent rights belong to me or Nichia by May [of this year]," he said. "A decision about the compensation money will be made by the end of the year."

Nakamura is confident that he will win, claiming that Japan is one of a few countries that awards patent rights to an inventor rather than the inventor's employer.

And if he wins, Nakamura says he will license his patents to all companies working on this technology. "Nichia doesn't want to license to any other company, but I will license to everyone," he said.

Nakamura adds that Nichia's present market dominance means that the cost of blue laser diodes is artificially high. He hopes that by winning the patent dispute and licensing the technology to other industry players, he will counter this.

This news comes in the same week as nine of the world's leading electronics giants announce the next-generation DVD specifications, based on Nakamura's blue diode laser work (see Consortium sets new DVD standard). Nakamura warns however that with Nichia's current monopoly over the blue laser diode market, this standard could face some problems.

"[At the moment] only Nichia can supply all of the demand. And if next year all DVD companies begin to sell next-generation discs, [Nichia] will not be able to cover this demand," he said. "[This means] the cost of DVDs will be high."

Rebecca Pool is news editor on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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