Inventor of Revolutionary Cassette Tape Passes AwayMarch 15, 2021

The inventor of the cassette tape, Lou Ottens, passed away at 95 last week.  The Dutch mechanical engineer began working for Philips in 1952, and became head of the product development department in 1957. Seeking an improvement to reel-to- reel recording spools and their problem with loose tape, Ottens’ goal was an enclosed case which fit in his jacket pocket.  He created the final embodiment of the cassette tape in 1962 and the invention was publicly disclosed at a product exhibition in Berlin in 1963.

His small, portable cassette invention which could play and record, changed the audio world.  His invention largely replaced vinyl records, as well as 8 track cartridges, with cassette players soon becoming a standard feature in the dashboard of automobiles.  Over the years, more than 100 billion cassette tapes were sold worldwide, according to Philips, who licensed the technology for free. The popular cassette tape became the victim of its own inventor, when Ottens, working with others, developed the compact disc, which was jointly released by Philips and Sony in 1982.

Kirk Hartung is Co-Chair of the Mechanical Patent Practice Group at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. For additional information, please visit or contact Kirk directly via email at

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