Personal Audio's hopes of squeezing money out of podcasters has fallen apart because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has invalidated key claims in the patent the company was using to target online shows. PA claimed it invented podcasting and thanks to its patent, everyone hosting an online show owed it licensing payments.
USPTO throws a wrench in Personal Audio's paten lawsuit scheme
The Electronic Frontier Foundation helped spearhead the effort to invalidate the patent. EFF Staff Attorney Daniel Nazer commented, "We're glad the Patent Office recognized what we all knew: 'podcasting' had been around for many years and this company does not own it."
Personal Audio found itself in the legal spotlight in 2013 when it filed patent infringement lawsuits against ACE Broadcasting, which hosts the Adam Carolla Show, as well as HowStuffWorks.com, CBS, and NBC Universal.
Personal Audio's patent number 8,112,504 described a system for distributing media files online that's similar to the way podcasting works. The company may have patented the idea, but the EFF was able to show podcasts pre-dated the patent application by several years.
Apple squared off against Personal Audio in 2009 in a lawsuit over claims that the iPod infringed on patents covering music playlist navigation. Apple lost that case in 2011 and was ordered to pay Personal Audio US$8 million—well below the $84 million in damages the company had been asking for.
With key claims in the patent now invalidated, Personal Audio doesn't have nearly the legal pull it had hoped for. This doesn't mean, however, that the company will simply slink off with its tail between its legs. Considering the home page on Personal Audio's website says it was founded to "assert the patents against Apple Inc. and others," and goes on to tout its legal win against Apple, it's a safe bet we'll be hearing about them again.