Podcast producers have less to fear now that a patent used to threaten many of them with lawsuits has been thrown out. On Friday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office invalidated key claims of the patent, which its owner claimed covered the concept of podcasting -- or the episodic release of audio content through files distributed online.
The owner, Personal Audio, had previously used the patent in 2013 to demand licensing fees from podcasters such as comedian Adam Carolla and three television networks, the digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation said. Personal Audio, based in Beaumont, Texas, did no podcasting itself.
“We’re grateful for all the support of our challenge to this patent. Today is a big victory for the podcasting community,” Daniel Nazer, a staff attorney at the EFF, said in a news release. “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.”
Following a petition filed by the EFF with the patent office, several aspects of the invention were found to be unpatentable due to the "prior art" of shows similar to podcasts, such as online broadcasts from CNN and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC).
Specifically, the patent office invalidated the claims surrounding an “apparatus for disseminating a series of episodes represented by media files via the Internet as said episodes become available.”
The ruling comes as Congress continues the debate on how to deal with patent trolls -- the name given to companies that exist only to use patents to extract money from other companies through lawsuits and settlements. One such way it could fight patent trolls is through the re-introduced “Innovation Act,” a house bill aimed at deterring frivolous patent lawsuits by making it harder to file them in the first place, the Washington Post reported.
Read the ruling below: