Will Patent Trolls Kill Podcasting, Or Make It Cost-Prohibitive?

MicrophoneYou may have heard about the patent infringement lawsuit filed against Adam Carolla for his regularly published podcast, and his crowdfunding campaign to help raise legal fees for the defense. The patent in question is U.S. Patent Number 8,112,504 entitled “System For Disseminating Media Content Representing Episodes In A Serialized Sequence”.

On July 29, 2014, patent owner Personal Audio offered to dismiss their lawsuit against Carolla because they discovered that Adam Carolla does not generate significant amounts of money from his podcast. However… 

Adam Carolla has refused to allow them to dismiss the case, and insists upon taking the case to trial in hopes of invalidating the patent so it cannot be enforced against others. 

Adam Carolla’s case is pending in Texas, and is expected to go to trial at the end of 2014. There is also a separately pending reexamination proceeding involving the patent in question before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. In either of these pending cases, if evidence is presented to show that the podcasting technology was already known in the industry before Personal Audio filed the patent application, then the patent can be invalidated, or narrowed to include features that would make it unique.

I don’t have enough information to really determine whether the patent should be invalidated yet or not, since those cases are still proceeding through an extremely complicated set of proceedings. However, the fact that patent owner Personal Audio has publicly stated that it is willing to dismiss the case against Carolla and others due to the lack of podcasting revenue is a good sign that they may not heavily enforce the patent in the future, even if it remains valid after the Texas Federal Court and USPTO examines it further. 

The reason Personal Audio is likely saying this is because it generally costs in excess of $1,000,000 in attorney fees to take a patent case to trial in the United States. In order to spend over a million dollars in litigation, the patent owner would generally expect that the royalties being owed by the Defendant(s) would far exceed that amount to justify the legal expenses of moving it forward.

For now, I count this as a small victory towards resolving the uncertainty surrounding the podcasting patent that Personal Audio has been threatening to assert against many companies in the industry. We will have to monitor this as it evolves to see whether the patent will be found invalid or not, but for now, know that they are less likely to sue if the amount of potential damages is small. 

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