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Thread: Sony didn't invent the walkman - a German did

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Sony didn't invent the walkman - a German did

    Sony settles with German inventor of Walkman

    The biography of Sony founder Akio Morita credits him with the concept of the portable music player, a device better known to Sony customers around the world as the Walkman.

    But the Japanese consumer electronics giant has just paid several million euros to a German inventor who patented the idea in 1977.

    After more than 20 years of court battles, 59-year-old Andreas Pavel agreed to a settlement that, in return for the payment, suspends all legal procedures he had set in motion against the company, according to German weekly Der Spiegel, which obtained confirmation from Sony's head office in Tokyo.

    In 1977, Pavel, then living in Italy, registered for several patents relating to a portable stereo device named the Stereobelt (literally, the 'belt stereo'). In 1979, Sony launched its famous Walkman, which went on to sell more than 200 million units in its first two years.

    Pavel sought to take advantage of his patent rights in 1980, starting friendly negotiations with Sony for acceptable royalty payments through a licensing contract. In 1986, the manufacturer paid out royalties but Sony always rejected Pavel's claim that he had invented the gadget. In 1989, Pavel turned to the British justice system to establish his ownership of the rights.

    After more than seven years, Pavel's suit was dismissed, and he found himself near bankruptcy because the court costs - nearly 3m euros ($3.68m) - were charged to him.

    Pavel threatened to continue his battle in other countries where he held a patent. In 2001, Sony changed its stance and agreed to start new negotiations with Pavel, which led to the settlement.

    The contract signed by the two parties is confidential but sources with knowledge of the deal said Sony agreed to pay Pavel several million euros.

    Pavel, extremely proud of his victory, said he now plans to approach other manufacturers of Walkman-like products, including Apple Computer. Apple's white-hot iPod is to some extent the digital successor of the Walkman.

    Pavel also has more assets up his sleeve. In 1989, he filed a patent application in the US for a technology combining the functions of a pocket audio player and a mobile phone. According to Der Spiegel, a decision on that application will be reached soon.

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  2. #2
    Dog Youkai playaa's Avatar
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    Weird, interesting fact I did not know.. That guy is a bit crazy I would have kept my money and took my losses, as he seems to have lost more then he gained.
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  3. #3
    Resisting Otaku Shinpachi's Avatar
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    I think he's more than just a bit crazy. I must not understand patents well enough, it doesn't sound like he had working models and that he was just patenting ideas, in which case whoopdy doo for him. He can't possibly be thinking to sue Apple though, that'd be like the creator of Pong sueing Nintendo for making Mario Tennis. I feel bad for Sony to get screwed like this.
    Speak softly and carry a big stick

  4. #4
    Regular Member bossel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shinpachi
    I think he's more than just a bit crazy. I must not understand patents well enough, it doesn't sound like he had working models and that he was just patenting ideas, in which case whoopdy doo for him. He can't possibly be thinking to sue Apple though, that'd be like the creator of Pong sueing Nintendo for making Mario Tennis. I feel bad for Sony to get screwed like this.
    Screwed? If they steal somebody's idea & earn millions (or billions?) from it, they have to pay. I don't think, Sony would like it if somebody did the same what they did to Pavel with one of their patents.

    There existed at least a prototype of the stereobelt.

  5. #5
    Taicho mdchachi's Avatar
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    Why do you think they stole it? It sounds like they invented it on their own but he had done something similar first. Chances are good that they didn't know about his stereobelt. Many inventions happen concurrently/independently all the time. Is there any evidence that they were aware of his device?

  6. #6
    Regular Member bossel's Avatar
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    Well, maybe it's a bit harsh to call it "stealing", but that's the way you feel if you had a great idea & then somebody else gets all the credit. But, anyway, in this case the patents were registered in 1977, 2 years before Sony's Walkman was launched. I have serious doubts that a multi-million Dollar company like Sony was not aware of these patents.
    Do you think, the other way round, Sony wouldn't have sued Pavel?

  7. #7
    Taicho mdchachi's Avatar
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    I don't know the details of the case but it's certainly possible that they didn't know. They weren't a very big company at the time and I don't think they would do a patent search in every other country before they developed their product, or even afterwards.

  8. #8
    Regular Member bossel's Avatar
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    Possible, but improbable. Sony has been a world wide player since the 1960s. You seem to underestimate the size of Sony. They opened their first European offshoot in Switzerland in 1961.

  9. #9
    Regular Member smig's Avatar
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    Poor bastard. I bet a coupla million euros is nothing compared with what Sony made.

  10. #10
    I! TwistedMac's Avatar
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    poor?.. the guy got a settlement now and he seems quite happy with it.
    if it werent for sony's success he wouldnt be getting any. His invention could very well still just have been an old relic from 1977 that hadnt gotten him a dime.
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  11. #11
    Cat lover Apollo's Avatar
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    Watch out Apple Computer, as he is now approaching companies with products which are further developments of the walkman/stereobelt.....When can he draw the line? How about the Discman??


    Impressive that he spent 3 million Euros for the case....

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