Patent office knocks down key claims against podcasters

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office dealt a legal blow Friday to Personal Audio LLC, the patent-holding company that claims to have invented podcasting technology.

The USPTO ruled that two of the key patents Personal Audio has cited in its legal proceedings against podcasters are “unpatentable.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which brought the appeal on Personal Audio’s patents, said the ruling was a win for podcasters who had settled with the company or received threatening letters.

“Today is a big victory for the podcasting community,” said EFF Staff Attorney Daniel Nazer, who holds the EFF’s Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents, in a statement. “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 settled with comedian Adam Carolla in August 2014 and issued a statement that it “has no intention of suing podcasters that are making modest amounts of money from podcasting.” The company had sent threatening letters to podcasters with ties to public media, including Jesse Thorn, whose Bullseye is distributed by NPR, and Steven Levitt, whose book Freakonomics
inspired WNYC and American Public Media’s radio show and podcast Freakonomics Radio, which he occasionally hosts.

EFF argued that Personal Audio had invented nothing new before filing its patent application and that podcasting preceded the company’s filing. But EFF cautioned that Personal Audio is still working to acquire patents related to podcasting.