The man behind the alleged podcasting patent, James Logan, took on the geeky masses at the tech website Slashdot with a Q&A session on Monday. Given the average Slashdotter’s objection to patent trolling, one user asked Logan why he would “volunteer to step into the lion’s den?” Logan answered, “sometimes going into the ‘lion’s den’ is the best way to get your point across.”
Although I have to give respect to Logan for taking on the questions, not much more clarity came out of the exchange. Responding to the assertion that he had not attempted to produce a product, Logan countered that he spent $1.6 million of his own money to develop the cassette product that was the basis of his original 1996 patent. What he failed to do was to draw a clear and direct line between that cassette audio program product and internet podcasting as it arose some ten years later.
When asked to explain how his patent on podcasting is “novel enough that anyone who wants to distribute audio over the internet should license it from you?” Logan demurred, saying “this is one of (the) questions that could be me in a boatload of trouble.”
Logan was also asked to outline what kind of license fees would be charged to a podcaster who is willing to pay. Again, he declined to specify, but said that “we hope to publish our (podcasting) license schedule in the coming weeks.”
Two representatives from Logan’s company, Personal Audio, appeared on the Lawyer 2 Lawyer podcast last week. Similarly, that interview fails to shed much additional light on their claims. When asked about how they intend to treat hobby podcasters, who make no money from their efforts, Personal Audio attorney Richard Baker asserted, “nobody gets a freebie.”
Personal Audio’s president of licensing, Brad Liddle, also acknowledged that they believe their patent also covers episodic TV episodes distributed online, saying that they have amended their claims against CBS, NBC and Discovery to reflect this.
Daniel Nazer of the Electronic Frontier Foundation appeared on the same episode. The EFF is taking this case head-on, to, as Nazer puts it, defend podcasting generally, noting that episodic internet radio has been around a long time. Longer, he says, than 2009, which is when Personal Audio filed its current podcasting patent, based on technology outlined in its original 1996 patent for its cassette-based product.
Taking on Personal Audio’s defense that it shouldn’t have to make any podcast products, Nazer said that the patent should be sufficiently explicit that someone ought to be able to create a product using only “the teachings of the patent.” But, he says, the Personal Audio patent doesn’t provide this level of instruction, and instead is “speculative.” He concludes, “other people had to do the work.”