Japan Consumer Electronics Domination Usurped By South Korea… So Out Come The Patent Fights

from the if-you-can't-innovate,-litigate dept

If you look at the history of innovative societies and patents, you notice a clear pattern that after a burst of innovation, the firms that innovated begin to rely on patents to stop competition from outsiders who innovate. In other words, contrary to what patents are supposed to be for, they are often used to slow down the pace of future innovation, rather than advance it. Take, for example, the situation in Japan. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, of course, many American consumer electronics firms lost their edge to Japan — with many often accusing the Japanese players of “stealing” their technology. But what happens now, decades in the future, when South Korea has usurped Japan’s throne as the leading consumer electronics maker? Well, apparently it means that Japanese firms are focusing on patent battles with the South Koreans, rather than working on ways to innovate and offer better products for the market. Many believe that the Japanese consumer electronics firms need to seriously restructure and refocus, but at the same time the indications are that those firms prefer to concentrate on patent battles rather than taking those big and necessary steps. Once again, when companies can’t innovate to compete, they litigate.

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Comments on “Japan Consumer Electronics Domination Usurped By South Korea… So Out Come The Patent Fights”

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TW Burger (profile) says:

Cause and Effect

I am not certain that the problem is a fixation on patent litigation as a business model as it is that patent battles are simply one symptom of myopic planning resulting in failing national industries. It’s not that patent fights don’t waste money, time, and other resources, it’s just that many other factors cause greater degradation on industries – primarily lack of resources into research and development caused by quarterly profit fixation rather than long term business planning.

Industries that, after having innovative success, focus on ‘milking cash cows’ instead of working to reduce costs and add value are a repeating theme in economies since the start of the industrial revolution (c. 1830), and probably before. I can’t even think of a manufacturing industry that has not gone through this cycle. Steel, electronics, and now automobiles have been lost by western countries to Japan, Japan to Korea, and now Korea will lose to China. Unless the executives in charge can look past the current situation and into the future – something very rare in most businesses (and governments) from my observations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Cause and Effect

“Industries that, after having innovative success, focus on ‘milking cash cows’ instead of working to reduce costs and add value are a repeating theme”

They are often a result of the intellectual property laws they lobby for. Without such laws it would be more difficult to create a cash cow and make money by not innovating merely because you can prevent others from innovating.

Pragmatic Idealist says:

Re: Makes perfect sense to me

That was a really good observation!

“The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not anyone have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows, “Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.” ~Jean Jacques Rousseau

George H. Morgan (user link) says:

Economic competition between South Korea & Japan

There is much more involved than merely consumer electronics. There is a “payback time” factor because of the way the Koreans were treated by the Japanese for approximately 50 years that ended with the end of that great tragedy known as WWII.

This also motivates the folks at Hyandai which is Toyota’s most serious threat for automotive dominence.

During the Great Depression of the ’30’s, economic problems & the rise of nationalism led to WWII, which, in Europe, was basicly a rematch from WWI, while in Asia, a result of Imperialistic expansion, on both sides of the Pacific, predicted as far back as around 1880 by the Mahan doctrine accredited to Admiral Mahan, who foresaw a war between Japan and America over the control of the Pacific.

A Santyana said: “Those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it!”

Michael (profile) says:

This always reminds me...

This always reminds me of something my father told me about water-front real estate.

Everyone that builds a house on a lake insists that their house is the last one that can be built before the beauty of the lake is ruined. From there, they suddenly all seem to become tree-huggers that don’t think anyone should disrupt the eco-system with another home. Only listen to the guy that bought the land and refuses to build on it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Where the beef?

I read the article at the link. It is all about how Japanese companies are getting their butts kicked by Korean firms (who did not see that coming?).

At the very end was SPECULATION, let me repeat that because it is worth repeating, SPECULATION, that Japanese companies might assert their patent rights more aggressively against Korean companies. There was one comment about the on-going battle between Sharp and Samsung (who have fought over far more than just LCD technology, incidentally), but other than that, there really was NO indication “firms prefer to concentrate on patent battles rather than taking those big and necessary steps,” except for the ever-vague “analysts.”

I think anti-IP people are starting to see IP even when there are only the most tenuous indications that it exists. Must be a slow news day.

Anonymous Coward says:

More Stifling, Maybe? Probably not.

This past week I have read two articles, one on the internet and one in “Invention and Technology” magazine that claim that innovation is at either record levels or more breakthrough than we have seen since the 1870-1880 time frame (wow!)

We live in a time when patent protection is about as strong as it has ever been (not quite true since patent protection in the United States has been weakening since about 2004, but generally true).

Follow the logic trail…

If A is true (that innovation is at record or historically high levels) and

If B is true (that patent protection is about as strong as it has ever been historically,

Then A is not affected by B.

Tough to prove “stifling” when analysts are running around claiming that innovation is:

(a) Growing exponentially
(b) At historic high levels
(c) At breakthrough levels not seen more more than 100 years.

I will not bother wondering whether there is a correlation between patent protection and all the incredible innovation currently happening.

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