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Podcasters can relax thanks to patent ruling
Companies known as "patent trolls" have made a business of buying up patents from other people and suing other companies for using technology similar to their patent. The most recent attempt to correct this practice has helped the podcast industry. - photo by Matthew Jelalian
Podcasters likely breathed a sigh of relief this month after regulators ruled against an alleged patent troll that threatened the popular medium.

A company called Personal Audio had used a patent it held that generally referred to disseminating episodes via the Internet to threaten to terminate podcasts like the Adam Carolla Show and Penn Sunday School.

Patents allow their holders to control who uses their inventions and how they use them. They protect the ideas and solutions of innovators from being stolen by others who didnt put the time or effort into creating the product.

In the case of Personal Audio, the United States Patent and Trademark Office said last week that the lawsuits against podcasters were frivolous but its patent wasnt entirely valid.

"Friday's ruling by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office invalidates five provisions of Personal Audio's podcasting patent," the Washington Post reported. "Specifically, it takes aim at claims 31 to 35, which describe an 'apparatus for disseminating a series of episodes represented by media files via the Internet as said episodes become available.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which petitioned for Personal Audios patent to be invalidated, showed that various forms of podcasts happened before the patent was filed and no one had the right to patent the idea.

Earlier examples of podcasting include Internet pioneer Carl Malamud's 'Geek of the Week' online radio show and online broadcasts by CNN and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), an EEF press release stated.

This decision breaks a major grip of patent trolls over independent podcast creators of all sizes, reported The Next Web.

Patent trolls look for opportunities to threaten legal action against companies that hold vaguely similar patents.

These (patent trolls) are businesses that do little other than acquire patents for the purpose of extracting payments unfairly from other businesses and entities, including universities, reported the Wall Street Journal. They do so by threatening litigation over alleged infringement of the trolls patents, in the hope that their victims will pay them to avoid going to court.

Federal legislation to curb patent abuse died in the Senate Judiciary Committee two years ago after Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, cited on his website that there was a lack of agreement regarding how to fix the problem.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court has stepped in, according to The Atlantic, with rulings that have helped companies recoup their legal fees from patent trolls as well as greatly restricting what can and cannot be patented with regard to computer use.

"Courts have tossed out 15 business method patents for being not patentable," the Atlantic reported. "These invalidations are particularly important because they show that firms accused of infringing business method patents will often be able to get the suit dismissed before costly legal discovery."
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