The South China Morning Post said:

This was followed by a second five-year semiconductor deal in 1991, in which Japan agreed to double the US market share in Japan to 20 per cent. In yet another bilateral semiconductor deal in 1989 Japan was required to open its semiconductor patents to the US.

I am wondering how a country can legitimately require another country to open its patents to another country. Is there a legal framework that allows such things to be done, or is this a case of the U.S. using its might in a non justifiable way? I am asking this, because there doesn't seem to be a rule within the WTO that forces a developed country to transfer tech to another developed country.

  • 1
    The article seems very flawed. Patents are mostly national anyway; the US doesn't need Japanese patents at all. Japanese patents give monopoly rights on the Japanese market, US patents on the US market.
    – MSalters
    Commented Jun 16, 2019 at 19:49
  • @MSalters typically trade agreements include mutual recognition of patents. In business the gold standard is a "world wide patent", which generally means one valid in most countries by filing in certain key jurisdictions and relying on the web of agreements.
    – user
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 9:23
  • @user: I recently did the paperwork for a patent filing, so I'm up to date on the procedures. Not even the EU have mutual recognition of patents, and that is supposed to be a single market (!). Mutual recognition is limited to priority date - in case of overlapping patents, the first to file wins.
    – MSalters
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 9:28
  • I've asked on Skeptics about the claim you've highlighted, i.e. what it meant in practice. skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/44998/… Commented Sep 21, 2019 at 14:18

1 Answer 1


There was no 1989 bilateral agreement, but instead, as explained in Protecting American Intellectual Property in Japan (Santa Clara High Technology Law Journal, January 1994):

The Japanese Patent Office has been more willing to change its protectionist policies than other branches of the Japanese government due to the firm stance taken by the Reagan and Bush administrations on intellectual property. This position was first communicated to Japan in a report entitled "Competition with the Whole World-The New Reality," released in 1985.[reference 24] This report was considered "shocking" [reference 25] in Japan; since they had relied for decades on being able to "borrow" American technology at will during the prior period of lax patent enforcement. Since the release of this report, every significant trade negotiation with Japan has placed intellectual property enforcement as a major plank in the United States platform. In fact, President Bush, through his Council on Competitiveness, placed increased scrutiny on the policies and procedures of the Japanese Patent Office. In May of 1989, dissatisfied with the adequacy of the Japanese procedures, he placed Japan on the United States "watch list" of 17 countries that had denied effective patent protection for American inventions.[reference 26] If sufficient progress is not made within a specified period, trade sanctions will follow.

Specifically, in May 1989 Japan was placed by the US on a watch list of countries using special 301 provisions of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act.

Then, in October of 1989, Japan finally granted a patent for Jack Kilby's invention of the semiconductor integrated circuit. See Thirty-year wait for microchip patent pays off (NewScientist, 2 December 1989).

  • So it sounds like "open its semiconductor patents to the US" means "allow US inventors to receive and enforce patents in Japan". Which doesn't seem particularly unreasonable, but SCMP chose an odd way to say it.
    – CCTO
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 13:52

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