Inventor Stays The Course Until Justice Is Done

Taipei Times: In the late 1960s, Andreas Pavel and his friends gathered regularly at his Sao Paulo house to listen to records, from Bach to Janis Joplin, and talk politics and philosophy. In their flights of fancy, they wondered why it should not be possible to take their music with them wherever they went.
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Inspired by those discussions, Pavel invented the device known today as the Walkman. But it took more than 25 years of battling the Sony Corp and others in courts and patent offices around the world before he finally won the right to say it: Andreas Pavel invented the portable personal stereo player.
In person, Pavel seems an unlikely protagonist in such an epic struggle. He is an intellectual with a gentle, enthusiastic, earnest demeanor, more interested in ideas and the arts than in commerce, cosmopolitan by nature and upbringing.
Pavel still remembers when and where he was the first time he tested his invention and which piece of music he chose for his experiment.
It was February 1972, he was in Switzerland with his girlfriend, and the cassette they heard playing on their headphones was Push Push, a collaboration between the jazz flutist Herbie Mann and the blues-rock guitarist Duane Allman.
“I was in the woods in St. Moritz, in the mountains,” he recalled. “The snow was falling down. I pressed the button, and suddenly we were floating. It was an incredible feeling, to realize that I now had the means to multiply the aesthetic potential of any situation.”
Over the next few years, he took his invention to one audio company after another — Grundig, Philips, Yamaha and ITT among them — to see if there was interest in manufacturing his device. But everywhere he went, he said, he met with rejection or ridicule.
Ignoring the doors slammed in his face, Pavel filed a patent in March 1977 in Milan. Over the next year and a half, he took the same step in the US, Germany, England and Japan.
Pavel declined to say how much Sony was obliged to pay him, citing a confidentiality clause. But European press accounts said Pavel had received a cash settlement for damages in the low eight figures and was now also receiving royalties on some Walkman sales.

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About David Burn

Native Nebraskan seeking the perfect pale ale in the Pacific Northwest. Disc golfer. Fan of Kurt Vonnegut, community radio and wolves in the wild. Copywriter and brand strategist at Bonehook. Co-founder and editor of AdPulp.