A patent holder that went after podcasters in 2013 has lost its appeal before the Federal Circuit.
"Personal Audio, LLC, the patent holding company, is the attempt by the investor, me, to get a return on that investment". 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.
In its petition [PDF], the EFF pointed to three high-profile examples of pre-1996 podcasting: "Geek of the Week", a recorded talk show from tech expert and author Carl Malamud, which began in 1993 and managed to garner more than 100,000 total listeners despite the slow and sparse internet connections at the time; the Canadian Broadcast Corporation's year-long trial of internet radio broadcasts, which began in December 1993; and CNN's online news episodes that predate Personal Audio's supposed invention of podcasting.
Personal Audio claimed that their patent covered all forms of podcasting, giving them the supposed basis for lawsuits filed against entities ranging from CBS and NBC, to HowStuffWorks, to, uh, Adam Carolla. One of the biggest wins came from the company's 2009 suit against Apple over iPod playlists, which ended in an $8 million payday for the NPE. The medium has experienced a comeback of sorts over the last five or so years, not coincidentally around the same time Personal Audio started to make its erroneous patent-based royalty claims.
In October 2013, EFF filed a petition at the USPTO challenging the so-called podcasting patent owned by Personal Audio and asking the court to use an expedited process for taking a second look at the patent.
A unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will, for now, keep podcasting safe from this patent.
Personal Audio had tried to develop a digital audio player in the 1990s.
"We're pleased that the Federal Circuit agreed that the podcasting patent is invalid", said Daniel Nazer, Staff Attorney at EFF and the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents.
Personal Audio could seek a review in the Supreme Court, the foundation added.