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Ruling Gives Podcasters Breathing Space

(CN) - A Texas patent holding company's claims on podcasting technology in high-profile litigation against comedian Adam Carolla and CBS is invalid, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled Friday.

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board was unpersuaded by patent holder Personal Audio LLC's argument that the updating of a podcast's table of contents requires some information from a previous compilation file.

"We have determined already that the Table of Contents includes more than one segment, i.e., 'episodes,'" the 29-page opinion states. "There is no claim language limiting how the updating of the compilation file occurs."

Personal Audio has filed at least 14 federal patent-infringement lawsuits in Texas since 2009, Courthouse News Service records show. The company sued Carolla in Marshall, Texas Federal Court in 2013, claiming his podcast infringed its patent on a "system for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence."

Carolla used his podcast and guest appearances on the "Nerdist" and "WTF With Marc Maron" podcasts to denounce Personal Audio as a "patent troll." The former co-host of "Loveline" and "The Man Show" decried the suit as a money-grab against podcasting as a whole - a medium he argued is not very profitable.

Personal Audio dropped the lawsuit in August 2014, saying "it was not worth litigating over the amount of damages involved."

One month later, a Marshall federal jury awarded Personal Audio $1.3 million after concluding that CBS infringed on its patent in its podcasts for television shows such as "60 Minutes" and "Face the Nation."

The USPTO review was prompted by a complaint filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 2013. The EFF claimed Personal Audio did not actually invent anything new before filing its patent application and that other people had been podcasting for many years before.

The EFF hailed the ruling as "a big victory for the podcasting community."

"We're glad the Patent Office recognized what we all knew: 'Podcasting' had been around for many years and this company does not own it,'" said EFF staff attorney Daniel Nazer.

EFF staff attorney Vera Ranieri said the work to protect podcasting "is not done."

"Personal Audio continues to seek patents related to podcasting," Ranieri said. "We will continue to fight for podcasters, and we hope the Patent Office does not give them any more weapons to shake down small podcasters."

Personal Audio did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon.

Follow @davejourno
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