Podcasting patent trolls seek to intimidate EFF supporters, EFF fights back

Personal Audio is a patent troll that claims to own the process of sending audio around because they bought a patent from a guy who read Scientific American articles onto cassette tapes and sent them through the mail (seriously!). The Electronic Frontier Foundation is seeking to invalidate this patent -- which Personal Audio is using to shake down all kinds of indie podcasters for protection money -- using a new, cheaper, streamlined process.

Personal Audio is fighting dirty. They've filed an expensive lawsuit outside of the patent proceeding, and subpoenaed the names and personal details of everyone who donated to the campaign against their patent, purely to raise the price of adjudicating their patent and to intimidate podcasters who gave to the litigation fund rather than paying off Personal Audio.

EFF is fighting back. At stake is the process that is supposed to fix one tiny corner of the patent quagmire -- if Personal Audio's tactic succeeds, it will kill Congress's patent-fix dead.

The Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic at Stanford Law School has offered free counsel to anyone who's worried about the subpoena.

We believe that Personal Audio’s subpoena to EFF is improper for a number of reasons that are laid out in detail in our motion. Above all, we are outraged that Personal Audio is seeking to invade the privacy and associational rights of hundreds of our donors. EFF takes the privacy of its members and supporters extremely seriously—and so does the Constitution. As we explain in our motion, the First Amendment protects our donors’ right to privacy, and Personal Audio’s supposed need for the information does not trump those rights.

Personal Audio’s tactic is also improper for several other reasons. For example, it is appears to be primarily intended to avoid the well-defined limits of the PTO discovery process. The petition we filed follows a new, streamlined and therefore relatively inexpensive process. Rather than respond to that petition following the rules of that process, Personal Audio is trying to use entirely separate litigation as an excuse to raise the stakes on EFF – something Congress never intended. If Personal Audio succeeds, we fear it will send a message that this new process can be made invasive, cumbersome and expensive after all, which will in turn discourage others from using it to challenge low quality patents. That would be a shame for all of us.

See also:

* EFF challenges patent troll's "podcasting patents"

* RiYL podcast 025: Julie Samuels vs. Patent Trolls

EFF Fights Patent Troll Demand For Save Podcasting Campaign Donor Information [Daniel Nazer/EFF]

Notable Replies

  1. quail says:

    I've been somewhat following this patent troll when I heard NPR interview a spokesperson (maybe the guy who got the original patent?). In the interview the guy talked about making audio tapes and mailing them off to subscribers and what a novel idea that was that he got a patent for it in the mid to late 90s. (Wish I could remember the date of the patent.)

    The funny thing is that with my LaQuinta frequent traveler membership I used to get a cassette tape to listen to once a quarter while I played road warrior in the early 90s. It had inspirational chats with Zig Ziglar, games, and road warrior tips. It was more podcast like than what this guy put out much later in the 90s. Not to mention his patent steps on the fact that long distance romances, families w/ members in the military, and grandparents the world over have been mailing audio back and forth ever since the reel to reel.

  2. hallam says:

    Back in the cassette era there was a magazine on sale in WHSmiths on the great composers. They did a different composer every month and every episode came with a cassette.

    Only the first few episodes went on sale in Smiths, the idea was to get people to subscribe by mail. Here is a collection.

    It dates back to 1985 and was sold by Marshall Cavendish. They probably sold about half a million copies at least. It was a very well established model.

    Here is an EBay item with a CD


    As it happens I work as an expert witness in patent cases.

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