November 19, 2009 | By Rebecca Jeschke

EFF Tackles Bogus Podcasting Patent - And We Need Your Help

Patenting podcasting? You've got to be kidding. Yet a company called Volomedia just got the Patent Office to grant them such exclusive rights.

EFF and the law firm of Howrey, LLP aren’t willing to just sit by and watch. This patent could threaten the vibrant community of podcasters and millions of podcast listeners. We want to put a stop to it, but we need your help.

The Volomedia patent covers "a method for providing episodic media." It's a ridiculously broad patent, covering something that many folks have been doing for many years. Worse, it could create a whole new layer of ongoing costs for podcasters and their listeners. Right now, just about anyone can create their own on-demand talk radio program, earning an audience on the strength of their ideas. But more costs and hassle means that podcasting could go the way of mainstream radio -- with only the big guys able to afford an audience. And we'd have a bogus patent to blame.

In order to bust this patent, we are looking for additional "prior art" -- or evidence that the podcasting methods described in the patent were already in use before November 19, 2003. In particular, we're looking for written descriptions of methods that allow a user to download pre-programmed episodic media like audio files or video files from a remote publisher, with the download occurring after the user subscribes to the episodes, and with the user continuing to automatically receive new episodes. You can read the entire prior art request here, and if you have something that could help, please send it to podcasting_priorart@eff.org or fill out the form on our Volomedia page.

EFF's Patent-Busting Project has taken on ten of the worst free-speech and innovation crushing software patents approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Eight of the ten have had a bite taken out of them so far, with two busted entirely, one narrowed, four reexams granted by the Patent office, and another one invalidated by the courts. We weren't looking to add to our list of the "worst of the worst," but this one was so bad we had to add it as a special bonus offender, and we can't wait to shoot it down. As Renee DuBord Brown of Howrey said, "Overbroad patents deter innovation. Congress specifically authorized the reexamination process to correct such errors, and we are looking forward to working with EFF on this reexam."


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