This could be the dawn of another war which has an NPE throwing shards of infringement charges at podcasters, again turning the spotlight on the much-deliberated topic of whether the USPTO is issuing patents to “Delphian concepts”!? Personal Audio, an NPE in the audio system domain has been sending out threat letters to several podcasters. Expert opinion suggests that attacking shallow-pocketed podcasters would perhaps have been a better option than going for industry big wigs. But Personal Audio has put its best foot forward and directly sued the big players.
The podcasting technology in question which Personal Audio claims is being infringed upon is titled “System for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence”, registered as US8112504. This litigation has again brought to the fore a long-debated topic that USPTO continues to issue patents on vague concepts rather than specific technology, and NPEs seem to be cashing in on this.
The podcast boom has seen the emergence of shows such as WTF, Nerdist, and Comedy Bang Bang that are clearly the stars of this segment. Their intriguing take on up-to-date and relevant issues has made them a hit among the masses. The essence of these podcasts is to present audience with constant doses of wit and humor offering that treasured break from mundane routine, skyrocketing their popularity in recent times. Personal Audio started off on a high note by sending out letters of infringement to top podcasters, but it probably missed the impeccable connect that podcasters have developed with their audience… a treasure that they heavily bank on in times of crisis. If industry predictions are anything to go by, the huge mass support expected in favor of podcasters could be enough to overpower Personal Audio’s onslaught.
The angst and outburst among podcasters is evident. Marc Maron, popular stand-up comedian and host of podcast WTF, initiated the counter-battle by publicly lashing out at Personal Audio on Twitter. Jeff Ullrich, co-founder and CEO of the Earwolf Podcast Network, and Maron, along with others in the industry met on February 12 and decided to join hands to discuss the legal situation of targeted podcasters and calculate their bargaining power to not succumb to Personal Audio’s intimidation tactics.
Whether the power and competence of this patent will suffice to help win litigations is not yet known as the raw facts underlying the blanket of this broad patent are yet to be uncovered. Hence, at present, podcasters find it the best option to follow Maron’s call and adopt a defensive strategy. Amid infringement claims and invalidation attempts, what remains to be seen is whether mass support goes in favor of the podcasters earning the upper hand or of Personal Audio using the patent power to win itself a fortune.
(Featured image source: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/podcasts)