Podcast Patent Bully Must Go, Group Says

     (CN) – In its latest attack on “patent trolls,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation has taken aim at a patent claim that Personal Audio LLC uses to sue podcasters.
     Personal Audio is designated as the assignee to a February 2012 patent for podcast technology, which it defined as a “system disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence.”
     Calling the patent in question “broad and vague,” the EFF said Personal Audio cannot even explain how the technology works.
     “Claiming it owns the patent that broadly covers podcasting technology, Personal Audio is the classic example of a patent troll that neither makes nor sells anything, but uses its patent as a weapon to threaten lawsuits and extort settlement fees,” the foundation said in a statement.
     The EFF claims that Texas-based Personal Audio has “bullied” prominent podcasts and podcasters including the popular education-entertainment website “How Stuff Works.”
     The site was founded in 1998 and traded on the NASDAQ under HSWI. Discovery Communications bought it in 2007, launching the television series under the same name on the Discovery Channel a year later.
     Personal Audio sued HowStuffWorks.com in January 2013, according to Courthouse News records. It has also sued NBC, CBS, Apple, Amazon, Motorola, LG, Samsung.
     Comedian Adam Carolla and lesser known podcasters who work out of their own homes have also been hit by the company’s lawyers, the EFF said.
     The foundation said it is gearing up for battle, challenging Personal Audio’s original patent grant with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) by proving the company never really invented anything and rather rode on the coattails of others.
     “Patent trolls have been wreaking havoc on innovative companies for some time now,” EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels said in a statement. “But this particular breed of troll – targeting end users, small businesses, startups, and even individuals like podcasters for simply using everyday products – is a disturbing new threat.”
     The EFF said Samuels holds the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents.
     As part of its strategy, the foundation said it plans to prove that Personal Audio never invented the podcast technology in the first place, and that such technology was not “new” or was “obvious” at the time the patent was granted.
     The organization is partnering with the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society to use a new legal tool called the “inter partes review,” which exists under the America Invents Act.
     “The first step is to identify ‘prior art,’ or published examples of similar or identical ideas, that existed before October 2, 1996,” the EFF said in its press release. “The EFF is putting out a call today to the podcasting community to spread the word and help us collect the prior art we need to fight this dangerous patent.”
     Noting that the initial costs already put the effort $30,000, the EFF said it is also courting donations.
     “A podcaster working out of a garage is unlikely to have the financial resources to fight a lawsuit,” EFF Staff Attorney Daniel Nazer said in a statement. “Patent trolls like Personal Audio know this and use the threat of ruinous litigation costs as a weapon. Defeating this patent at the PTO would put an end to Personal Audio’s campaign.”
     The EFF is also leading a larger movement to help bring patent law current with the changing technological times.
     “Because of the deep and systemic problems in the American patent system, EFF is spearheading the Defend Innovation project to advocate for reform,” the EFF said. “The EFF is asking the public to sign on to our petition at defendinnovation.org and to comment on seven recommended proposals we think would make the broken system work better for software.”

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