May 30, 2013 | By Daniel Nazer

Help Save Podcasting!

We need your help to save podcasting. EFF is partnering with leading lawyers to bust a key patent being used to threaten podcasters. But we need your help to find prior art and cover the filing fees for a brand new patent busting procedure.

               

A couple of months ago we wrote that podcasting was under threat from a patent troll. At that time, a patent troll named Personal Audio LLC had sued three podcasters and sent demand letters to a number of others. Since then, Personal Audio has filed two new lawsuits—this time against CBS and NBC. It has also sent additional demand letters to small podcasting operations. We’ve written often in the past about how patent trolls are a drain on innovation, and this latest troll is no exception. Since many podcasters barely make a profit, or simply do it for love, a shakedown from a patent troll threatens to shut down their program.

As with so many patent troll cases, the troll is asking for money despite having contributed nothing to the industry. By its own admission, Personal Audio tried and failed at its attempt to make an audio player. Having failed at actually making something, it became a shell company that does nothing but sue on its patents. And now it wants a handout from those who worked hard to create popular podcasts.

We’d like to enlist your help to fight this troll. One way to defeat a troll is to prove—either in court or at the patent office—that the claimed invention was not new (or was obvious). In other words, show that the patent applicant didn’t really invent anything. To do this, we need to find publications from before October 2, 1996 that disclose similar or identical ideas (this also known as prior art). The best prior art will include publications describing early versions of podcasting or any other kind of episode distribution over the Internet.

EFF is partnering with the Harvard’s Cyberlaw Clinic to investigate a challenge to this patent at the patent office. The most likely procedure will involve a new legal tool called the “Inter partes review” introduced by the America Invents Act. If we are successful in this process, the patent gets invalidated and Personal Audio would be unable to assert it against anybody.

For us to get started, we need your help—the filing fees charged by the US Patent and Trademark Office for this kind of high-impact challenge are relatively steep and there’s no way around them, even for an advocacy non-profit like EFF. If you join us in fighting to save podcasting, we’ll be able to bring a robust case straight to the US Patent and Trademark Office to stop Personal Audio from doing any more damage to online broadcasters.

We’ve posted a detailed call for prior art at Ask Patents. That includes the details about the patent claim being asserted and some examples of prior art we have already located. Please visit that page and review it carefully. If you know of any prior art, submit it there (or send it via email to podcasting@eff.org). If you think you might be able to find prior art, search for it. Since all of your submissions will be public, they can also be used by others who are fighting back against Personal Audio in court. And please forward this message far and wide. The more people that search, the more art we will find.

It is not easy to fight patent trolls, but with your help, we can defeat this patent and save podcasting.


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