EFF Targets Podcast Patent Holder Over New Lawsuits

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Harvard University Cyberlaw Clinic have teamed up to take on Personal Audio over the company's move to sue podcasters for allegedly infringing on a patents it holds. The company has already filed lawsuits against the Adam Carolla Show, HowStuffWorks, and others, and has sent letters to other shows such as Majority Reports.

Personal Audio targets podcasters in patent lawsuitsPersonal Audio targets podcasters in patent lawsuits

The patent in question, 8,112,504, describes a system for destributing media files through the Internet as they become available, which broadly covers how podcasts are delivered.

Personal Audio filed a case in January against ACE Broadcasting Network, which hosts the Adam Carolla Show, and also filed cases against HowStuffWorks.com and TogiEntertainment. In April, the company followed up with cases against CBS and NBC Universal. All of the suits were filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas -- a court that has a reputation for favoring patent holders.

The EFF decided to get involved in February since Personal Audio is targeting podcasters. The rights group stated,

Of course, as with most software patents, this one fails to explain how that 'apparatus' would actually work, apparently letting its owner make the ridiculous claim that essentially any apparatus that disseminates episodes infringes its patent.

The group said Personal Audio has since sent demand letters to what it called small podcasting operations, too. The EFF is currently looking for examples of podcasting systems that predate October 2, 1996, to help establish a prior art case against the company, and is also asking for donations to help with the pending legal fight.

This isn't the first time Personal Audio has cropped up in the podcasting world. The company successfully sued Apple for patent infringement in 2011 over two patents that describe navigating music playlists on the iPod. In that case, the company was awarded US$8 million in damages.

The EFF isn't saying who else has been targeted by Personal Audio. Since the group said many were smaller podcasting operations, it feels like we're seeing the tactic Lodsys has been using -- targeting content creators instead of just distributors -- in Personal Audio's patent infringment fight, too.

[Some image elements courtesy Shutterstock]