Personal Audio, LLC, a company who setup headquarters in an unoccupied office suite in Texas, has filed lawsuits against technology companies like Apple, large media companies such as CBS and NBC and individual podcasters including Adam Carolla’s ACE Broadcasting, HowStuffWorks.com, and Togi Entertainment, claiming all parties have infringed on Personal Audio LLC’s U.S. Patent 8,112,504. In a nutshell, Personal Audio, LLC claims they invented podcasting, they own it, and everybody needs to pay them money.
The patent was filed on March 4, 2009, but podcasting had already began roughly 5 years earlier. Adam Curry, considered to be one of the early podcasting pioneers, started his “Daily Source Code” podcast in August, 2004. Even Sundog’s own podcast posted its first episode in November of 2007.
What’s most disconcerting about the action of this patent troll, is that they are also targeting the content creators, who have been simply using the technology they purchased. Much of the language of the patent is so vague, one could conclude that simply the act of listening to a podcast would violate their “invention.” For example, a portion of the patent’s abstract reads “A playback unit at the subscriber location reproduces the program segments received from the host and includes mechanisms for interactively navigating among the program segments.” That sounds to me like anyone who has ever listened to a podcast is in violation of the patent.
Fortunately, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is coming to the rescue. The EFF is fighting this patent on behalf of podcasters everywhere. In an article from the Courthouse News Service, EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels says, “Patent trolls have been wreaking havoc on innovative companies for some time now. 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.”
This is a perfect example of why some say the patent system is completely busted. Maybe I should patent the act of breathing. Yeah, I could file a patent claiming that I invented “The alternating inspiration and expiration of air into and out of the lungs.” There, now all of you stop breathing or you’ll be hearing from my lawyer.