February 28, 2013, 11:39 AM — Patent trolls - you hate them, right? Of course you do. When stories like this or that come up, you probably shake your head disapprovingly, maybe sigh and let out a tsk or two and then move on with your life. After all, many of us have a sense that they’re wrong and are probably affecting us in some indirect way, but how worked up do you really get about them? In the end, if big companies like Apple or Microsoft land up having to pay off a troll here and there, does it really matter to us little folks?
Image credit: REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
One company that some consider a patent troll has opened up a new offensive in the patent wars that might have a more noticeable effect on many of us, beyond jacking up the price of your smartphone. It’s a company named Personal Audio and they’re starting to sue popular podcasters for violating a patent they’ve obtained which they claim covers podcasting. The patent was filed in 1996 and approved last year and covers any “Apparatus for disseminating a series of episodes represented by media files via the Internet as said episodes become available.” Is this trolling? Well, if it quacks like a duck...
In January Personal Audio filed lawsuits against three big podcasters: Adam Carolla, HowStuffWorks.com and Togi Entertainment. They’ve also sent threatening letters to other popular podcasters like WTF’s Marc Maron. The podcasters are taking Personal Audio’s threats and lawsuits seriously, as is the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which is offering to help find leagal counsel for affected podcasters.