May 30, 2013 | Electronic Frontier Foundation
Campaign Will Use Crowd-Power and New Law to Invalidate Patent Trolls’ Claim
San Francisco - The patent trolls have gone far enough: Starting today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is mounting a new, focused campaign to bust the dangerous patent that a Texas company has been using to shakedown podcasters. EFF intends to challenge the original grant of that patent before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by proving that the company, Personal Audio, did not really invent anything new.
Claiming it owns the patent that broadly covers podcasting technology, Personal Audio is the classic example of a patent troll that neither makes nor sells anything, but uses its patent as a weapon to threaten lawsuits and extort settlement fees. This particular troll has bullied prominent podcasts and podcasters, including How Stuff Works and Adam Carolla, in addition to smaller podcasters working out of their own homes.
"Patent trolls have been wreaking havoc on innovative companies for some time now," said EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels, who also holds the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents. "But this particular breed of troll—targeting end users, small businesses, startups, and even individuals like podcasters for simply using everyday products—is a disturbing new threat."
EFF is partnering with the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society to use a new legal tool against this patent called the "inter partes review," which was introduced by the America Invents Act. The first step is to identify "prior art," or published examples of similar or identical ideas, that existed before October 2, 1996. EFF is putting out a call today to the podcasting community to spread the word and help us collect the prior art we need to fight this dangerous patent. EFF is also looking for financial support to take on this challenge, which—even with pro bono help—will likely cost nearly $30,000.
"A podcaster working out of a garage is unlikely to have the financial resources to fight a lawsuit," said EFF Staff Attorney Daniel Nazer. "Patent trolls like Personal Audio know this and use the threat of ruinous litigation costs as a weapon. Defeating this patent at the PTO would put an end to Personal Audio's campaign."
Because of the deep and systemic problems in the American patent system, EFF is spearheading the Defend Innovation project to advocate for reform. EFF is asking the public to sign on to our petition at defendinnovation.org and to comment on seven recommended proposals we think would make the broken system work better for software. In the meantime, EFF is doing its best to rid the world of one more bad patent in the hands of a patent troll and help out podcasters who find themselves staring down the barrel of a gun.
For more on the Save Podcasting campaign:
For technical details of the search for prior art:
Donate to fund this campaign:
Staff Attorney and The Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation