Article | Business History Review

Intermediary Functions and the Market for Innovation in Meiji and Taisho Japan

by Tom Nicholas and Hiroshi Shimizu


Japan experienced a transformational phase of technological development during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We argue that an important, but so far neglected, factor was a developing market for innovation and a patent attorney system that was conducive to rapid technical change. We support our hypothesis using patent data, and we also present a detailed case study on Tomogorō Ono, a key developer of salt production technology who used attorneys in connection with his patenting work at a time when Japan was still in the process of formally institutionalizing its patent attorney system. In accordance with Lamoreaux and Sokoloff's influential study of trade in invention in the United States, our quantitative and qualitative evidence highlights how inventors and intermediaries in Japan interacted to create a market for new ideas.

Keywords: Japan; patents; innovation; Patents; Innovation and Invention; Japan;


Nicholas, Tom, and Hiroshi Shimizu. "Intermediary Functions and the Market for Innovation in Meiji and Taisho Japan." Business History Review 87, no. 1 (Spring 2013): 121–150.