In a question on politics.SE the following snippet from a South China Morning Post article was quoted:

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.

The claim is a little vague so perhaps open to some level of interpretation as to what "open its semiconductor patents" actually means. If it cannot quite be answered as true/false, what was Japan required to actually do, in accordance with that 1989 "deal", with respect to patents?

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    It does not reply to your question about semiconductors, but there was recently an article in the "The Economist" about Chinese economists thinking that Japanese economic dominance ended because Japan agreed in the eighties to the trade conditions imposed to them by the US -- and that China should learn from this to avoid suffering the same defeat. The article in question talks about currency exchange rates, but maybe it gives some idea on the general situation? amp.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2019/05/21/…
    – KlausN
    Commented Sep 23, 2019 at 22:30
  • @KlausN: yes, that's the reason this (historical) topic comes up in the news lately. I'm not sure it's only the Chinese who draw that parallel. (But that's a different matter.) Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 5:03
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    I'm (unsurprisingly) confused. Is it that Japanese companies holding patents were forced to give those patents to American companies, that those companies weren't allowing American companies to build based on those patents, or that the Japanese patent office wasn't recognizing patents from American companies who (correctly) should have been granted them. Or something else?
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 16:28
  • @CGCampbell: clearly the third thing. Also possibly whether Japanese courts tended to uphold infringement claims by foreign companies vs Japanese, award damages, injunctions etc., without which merely granting a patent wouldn't be worth much.
    – smci
    Commented Jan 16, 2021 at 22:57

1 Answer 1


In 1989 Japan granted Texas Instruments a patent for the first semiconductor integrated circuit according this New York Times article: https://www.nytimes.com/1989/11/24/business/japan-grip-still-seen-on-patents.html

Texas Instruments said late Tuesday that the Japanese Patent Office had awarded it a patent for its basic integrated circuit. The company had sought the patent since Feb. 6, 1960. A Potential Windfall

The protection covers all computer chips sold in Japan, dating from Oct. 30, when the patent was granted, through Nov. 27, 2001.


In May, the Bush Administration placed Japan on a ''watch list'' of 17 countries that it accused of denying effective patent protection for American inventions and other intellectual property. If those countries do not approve patent applications within specified periods, they will become subject to trade sanctions.


Texas Instruments said new patent agreements with Japanese chip makers would not take effect until 1991.

See also Thirty-year wait for microchip patent pays off (NewScientist 2 December 1989) and Protecting American Intellectual Property in Japan (Santa Clara High Technology Law Journal, January 1994) for more detail about the above.

There was a 1994 agreement as explained in Reform of Patent System in Japan and Challenges:

Under the U.S.-Japan agreement in 1994, which resulted from the IPR policy dialogue in the framework of structural impediments initiative, both governments agreed to make important policy changes. In 1994, the Japanese government switched from the pre-grant opposition system to the post-grant opposition system. It also pledged not to invoke compulsory licensing to resolve a blocking relationship unless it was for the purpose of correcting anticompetitive conduct or for public or noncommercial use. Furthermore, it expanded the fast track system of patent examination to allow an applicant with an application to a foreign patent office to enjoy a fast track too. The U.S. government in turn pledged to introduce an early disclosure system for patent applications and a re-examination system and to continue refraining from the use of compulsory licensing.

In conclusion there was no bilateral 1989 agreement, but Japan was pressured by the US by listing Japan as a "watch list" country using special 301 provisions of Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act.

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