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Podcasting News: Carolla Settles with Podcast Patent Troll

One chapter in the podcast patent troll story has closed. On Friday popular podcaster Adam Carolla and patent company Personal Audio filed a joint motion to dismiss Personal Audio’s suit against Carolla [PDF].

At the end of July news surfaced that Personal Audio said it offered to drop its suit, but that Carolla’s company rejected the offer. It’s unclear what changed in the last few weeks, since the details of the settlement haven’t been revealed and both parties have agreed to remain silent until September 30.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation breaks down the implications of the settlement on its blog. The group credits Carolla’s team and his supporters for fighting Personal Audio when many other targets of patent troll lawsuits simply settle in order to avoid both the expense and hassle of a court defense. “The podcasting community showed that it would not be shaken down,” writes EFF blogger Daniel Nazer.

As I noted in my post last month, Personal Audio discovered that even the biggest podcasters don’t make the kind of big network money the company apparently believed they do. Thus, it decided the cost of court trial with Carolla wouldn’t likely be worth the possible spoils of winning.

In a press release dated Tuesday, Personal Audio more clearly states that “it has no intention of suing podcasters that are making modest amounts of money from podcasting.” The company then specifically names six podcasters it will not sue: Nerdist, PodcastOne, Joe Rogan, Marc Maron and Jay Mohr.

As I also noted before, “modest amounts of money,” is a very relative term. Podcasting certainly is modest compared to the $23.7 billion in revenue that NBCUniversal had in 2013. To me this backhanded assuaging of podcasters only highlights the predatory instincts of patent trolls.

Despite the relief for most of the podcasting community, there are downsides for podcasting with this dismissal. Personal Audio cannot be forced by a court to compensate Carolla for legal fees. Ars Technica reports that Carolla’s CFO said that even the $500,000 raised through the Save Our Podcasts Legal Defense fund was insufficient, requiring Carolla to kick in additional money out-of-pocket.

More importantly, lost is the chance to have Personal Audio’s patent ruled invalid in court. Such an outcome would have protected all podcasters from future suits.

Even though Carolla is out of the hot seat now, Personal Audio still retains the right to refile a suit against him or any other podcaster. While the company has emphasized it has no plans to sue, it could still surface as a threat as the medium grows in popularity and profits. Personal Audio’s suits against the NBC, CBS and FOX television networks are still going forward, schedule for trial in September.

Nevertheless, the EFF hopes that Carolla set an example that “will protect smaller podcasters from further attacks from this troll.” Furthermore, the EFF is still pursuing its own challenge to Personal Audio’s patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office.


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