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Global Dimensions of Intellectual Property Rights in Science and Technology
country as different from ours as Japan. I first visited Japan about 40 years ago, and it seemed very, very different to me as a young U.S. Air Force officer. After years of seeing many different things in Japan, I would now like to try to find out what is the same. First, where are the similarities? Then we can analyze the differences.
Two similarities come to mind quickly when comparing the U.S. patent system or intellectual property system and the Japanese system. First, the benefits of a patent system per se to a modern industrial economy are well recognized by both countries.
What are those benefits? By disclosing knowledge, rather than keeping it secret, an intellectual property system serves as a stimulus to further technological development. Now, when your computer doesn't work, you may wonder whether technological development is good or bad. I often do, but an intellectual property system does stimulate dissemination of knowledge rather than hiding it. It also gives you a market edge. It gives you, for a limited time perhaps, the right to exclude others if you are an economic unit trying to compete. It also serves as a legal component for technology transfer. Dr. David writes about the know-how component which is usually, in my experience at least, 80 percent of technology transfer, but patents are an additional further legal component that serves to tidy things up. These are certain benefits. If you think about it, there may be many more.
A second similarity is that both systems, the United States and the Japanese, are dynamic; they change. I have been in this business—that is, the patent business—for 37 years now, and I cannot recognize U.S. patent law today as it was when I first knew it and began its practice in 1955. It is so different. Why is it so different? As Dr. David suggests, it had to be responsive to the society in which it exists and our society has changed dramatically since those placid days of the 1950s. The "fifties mind-set" is something that flashed into my head this morning. To me the years were a kind of nice, soft, hazy interlude, those Eisenhower years. It seemed things moved so quietly. Now nothing moves quietly. Why? I suppose Dr. Melvin Calvin, Nobel Prize winner from Berkeley, whom I heard speak about 13 or 14 years ago, was the ultimate prophet when he said that "the microprocessor will change our lives in ways that none of us will ever believe." Give it 10 years. Well, we have seen it in 10 years. Give it 20 years. The whole pace of transmission and dissemination of information is different. International communism collapsed as a result.
The Japanese are presently attempting to file patent applications in the Japanese Patent Office electronically. I have had many opportunities to talk with Japanese colleagues on the subject of electronic filing. I have spent at least, on average, three months in Japan every year for the last 21 years, am fluent in Japanese, and have many chances to talk and interact. I view this new Japanese paperless system as an American inspiration. The former