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Court says patent troll didn’t invent podcasting

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A federal appeals court has upheld the invalidation of a patent on podcasting technology

Podcast gear

A patent holder that went after podcasters in 2013 has lost its appeal before the Federal Circuit. In 2015, the Electronic Frontier Foundation successfully petitioned the US Patent and Trademark Office to invalidate parts of Personal Audio, LLC’s patent, arguing that they were not the first to invent a “system for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence.”

The “podcasting patent” is one of five patents that Personal Audio, LLC wields in lawsuits. The patents seem to frequently cover “inventions” that most people understand to be fairly basic aspects of technological services, and yet Personal Audio has been successful in using its patent portfolio to extract large judgments in the past. For example, in 2011, a jury awarded Personal Audio $8 million from Apple over a patent on downloadable playlists. But the podcasting patent itself became particularly notorious after Personal Audio sued comedian and radio show host Adam Carolla over his podcast The Adam Carolla Show in 2013. “How could a patent issued in 2012 cover podcasting, a technology that's been around since 2001?” asked Dave Winer, who is sometimes billed as the co-creator of podcasting technology.

Carolla raised nearly half a million dollars from outraged fans for legal representation, only to reach a settlement with the patent holder about a year later. Since the settlement could not stop Personal Audio from suing other podcasters in the future, the EFF went to the patent office itself to invalidate the patent.

On Monday, the Federal Circuit upheld the patent office’s decision to invalidate five key claims in the podcasting patent. The court agreed that earlier academic publications describing online broadcasting by CNN and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation not only “anticipated” the claims being made in the patent, but also showed that the claimed invention was too “obvious” to warrant protection.

“We’re pleased that the Federal Circuit agreed that the podcasting patent is invalid,” said Daniel Nazer, a staff attorney at the EFF and the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents. “We appreciate all the support the podcasting community gave in fighting this bad patent.”