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Sony settles Walkman patent case

German awarded 'a few million euro'

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Having recently announced its first hard disk drive-based portable media player to support both audio and video, Sony 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.

The German inventor has tried to sue Sony before, but Britain's Appeals Court confirmed in 1996 an earlier ruling that the portable player was a normal further technological development and could not be patented. According to 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.

Pavel says he intends to take other portable music player producers to court as well, including computer maker Apple, which developed the iPod. ®

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