Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

An Austrian court has ruled that Sony does not have exclusive rights to the Walkman name for personal stereos. The court referred to the appearance of the word in a German dictionary without reference to Sony.

Ananova reports that Sony sued Austrian wholesaler Time Tron because it described rivals’ personal stereos as Walkmans in its sales catalogue. That was in 1994. The country’s supreme court this week ruled that the name is too generic to be owned.

A Sony spokeswoman criticised the judgment describing the Walkman as “our own property and not a common noun to be used by anybody.”

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines “Walkman” as a noun, without reference to Sony. It defines the word as “a type of personal stereo." By comparison, in its definition of “Hoover,” it refers to “a vacuum cleaner (properly one made by the Hoover company).”

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