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Podcasting News: EFF To Challenge Patent Troll at Public Hearing

Today the podcast patent troll faces a hearing at the US Patent and Trademark Office. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has patiently worked to chip away at the patent owned by Personal Audio LLC which the company claims covers the invention of podcasting in 1996, meaning all podcasters potentially would owe the company royalties.

The EFF has gathered evidence of what’s called “prior art.” In this case these are examples of serialized audio programs being distributed online before Personal Audio was granted its patent. EFF turned up online audio distributed to the public by CNN and the CBC as early as 1993 that in April the Patent Office ruled is admissible.

Adam Carolla is the only independent podcaster sued by Personal Audio, and in August the two sides reached a settlement resulting in dismissal of the suit. Personal Audio subsequently released a statement saying it did not intend to pursue other independent podcasters, although nothing in that statement is legally binding.

Personal Audio did win a judgement against CBS in September, with a jury awarding damages of $1.3 million. The company also has suits pending against FOX and NBC. So, even though the company’s threat to most podcasters has been dialed down as a result of the settlement with Carolla, Personal Audio’s propensity to go after bigger media companies represent a still present threat to the growth of the medium as long as its patent continues to be enforceable.

The public hearing will be held at 1 PM ET, and is open to the public. The EFF says its counsel will argue that “Personal Audio did not invent anything new or non-obvious that should entitle Personal Audio to a patent.”

We cover podcasting news every Wednesday in our Podcast Survivor feature.

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