The Register reports that Sony, having recently announced its first hard disk drive-based portable media player to support both audio and video, has finally settled a decades-long dispute with a German who claimed to have invented the technology which led to the Walkman. In 1977 Andreas Pavel applied for a patent for a "portable small component for the hi-fidelity reproduction of recorded sound". The player, named "stereobelt", never saw the light of day. When Sony introduced its Walkman in 1979, it became the most successful portable music player on the market. Sony sold more than 200m units worldwide. Pavel sued Sony in the UK, where the Court of Appeal ruled in March 1996 that the portable player was a normal technological development which lacked any inventive step and could not be patented. According to the German magazine Der Spiegel, Sony now has "silently parted with a few million euro" in an out-of-court settlement with the 59-year-old inventor. Heartened by this, Pavel says he intends to take other portable music player producers to court as well, including computer maker Apple, which developed the iPod.

The IPKat notes that, while the criteria of patentability are the same throughout the member states of the European Patent Convention (see Art. 52), they are applied to the facts quite differently in different countries. He wonders whether Sony paid up to settle a real claim or just to keep a nuisance silent.

Search for patents on Espacenet
Portable music players here
Nuisance value hereand here
More on nuisances here, here , here, here and here
SONY'S PAVELOVIAN RESPONSE: PAY UP SONY'S PAVELOVIAN RESPONSE: PAY UP Reviewed by Jeremy on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 Rating: 5


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