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Electronic Frontier Foundation does battle with insidious patent troll who claims to 'own' all podcasting technology

Sunday, November 03, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: patent trollspodcastingEFF

They are colloquially known as "patent trolls," or entities that file patents specifically to leverage them rather than actually use them, and a major public advocacy group has decided to take one of these trolls on in court. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which works to protect online privacy rights, recently filed a petition to stop one particular patent troll that claims to "own" all podcasting technology, and that repeatedly demands royalty fees from people and groups that create and release podcasts online.

Filed under U.S. Patent No. 8,112,504, the "podcasting patent" in question is claimed to be owned by a group called Personal Audio, LLC, which back in January began suing podcasters left and right. Comedian Adam Carolla, for example, as well as several major television networks all received notices from Personal Audio demanding licensing fees for their use of podcast technology. According to EFF, Personal Audio does not actually create or use podcasting technology itself, but rather selectively "trolls" for royalties from entities that do.

After getting word of this activity by Personal Audio, EFF launched a fundraising campaign called "Save Podcasting" that, like its name implies, aimed to stop Personal Audio from leveraging its patent against others that use podcasting technology. According to reports, EFF raised more than twice what it expected as part of the campaign, more than $76,000, which will be used to pay the fees and costs associated with its petition.

With the help of the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society, as well as a number of pro bono attorneys supportive of the cause, EFF is now fully prepared to take on Personal Audio and defend the cause of open-source, free-use podcasting technology for information dissemination.

Podcasting existed years before Personal Audio filed patent, says EFF

A major argument in the EFF petition contends that podcasting was not even invented by Personal Audio. Information gathered by EFF's many supporters and allies reveals that both CNN and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) were creating and distributing podcasts years before Personal Audio filed its patent. Internet pioneer Carl Malamud had also been distributing his "Geek of the Week" podcast prior to the patent's existence.

"As we show in our petition, Personal Audio is not the true inventor of this technology," says EFF Staff Attorney Daniel Nazer. "If you look into the history of podcasting, you won't see anything about Personal Audio."

EFF's ultimate goal with the petition is to reform the patent system and end the practice of trolling, which it says defies the spirit and intent of what the patent system was supposed to represent. Rather than encourage innovation, patent trolling makes it more difficult for the public to utilize new technologies and ideas, stifling progress and thwarting ingenuity.

"Bad patents like this one slow down innovation -- exactly the opposite of what the patent system was intended to do," adds EFF Senior Staff Attorney Julie Samuels, the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents. "We are thrilled to challenge this bad patent and make the world safer for creators and podcasters."

You can view the full EFF petition against Personal Audio's patent here:

You can also learn more about EFF's long-term patent reform goals, which include protecting "infringers" against liability when they independently arrive at patented inventions, by checking out the group's Defend Innovation project:

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