Apple and EFF secure podcasting win as Supreme Court refuses case from patent troll

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited May 15
Wrapping up a long-running patent fight over podcasts, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear Personal Audio v. Electronic Frontier Foundation, handing victory over to the latter -- and by extension, companies like Apple and Google.

Apple Podcasts app for iPhone


Personal Audio, often labeled a patent troll, has for years been making demands from podcasters like Adam Carolla and targeting major tech firms like Apple. Podcasts take their name from Apple's iPod, and the company was instrumental in embracing the name and serving as a distributor through iTunes.

Carolla raised some $500,000 from his supporters to fight his case, ultimately settling out of court. Personal Audio did manage to win $8 million from Apple for violating two related patents.

In August 2017, though, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a 2015 Patent and Trademark Office finding in favor of the EFF, invalidating Personal Audio's key podcasting patent, "System for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence." The decision created an uphill battle for any further legal action.

Personal Audio was originally founded by Jim Logan, who in the late 1990s attempted to market a digital music player. When the company failed, Logan turned to the patent in an attempt to garnish licensing fees from well-known podcasters.

Beyond the podcasting patent, Personal Audio leveraged related IP against tech companies like Apple, Google and Samsung, to varying degrees of success. One of the biggest wins came from the company's 2009 suit against Apple over iPod playlists, which ended in an $8 million payday for the NPE.

With the Supreme Court weighing in, Apple's prominence in the podcast space is likely to remain firm. Podcasts hosted on iTunes can be played on Mac and Windows PCs, as well as iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs, and the one remaining iPod model, the Touch.

A conspicuous gap has been the Apple Watch. The wearable can be used to control iPhone playback, but podcasts can't officially be synced to local storage. That's led to cumbersome third-party workarounds, though Apple could finally solve the issue with watchOS 5, expected to be announced at WWDC 2018 in June.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    tylersdadtylersdad Posts: 161member
    "System for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence."

    Doesn't this describe television? Is there someone at the patent office who is technical enough to identify a BS patent when they see one?

    Seems like no.
    fh-acejbdragonbshankwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 13
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,306member
    Adam Corolla should counter-sue to get his settlement money back.  It’s wrong on every level that the company got away with it and pressured Corolla into paying to make the problem go away.
    edited May 15 racerhomie3jbdragonbshankwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 13
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 326member
    sflocal said:
    Adam Corolla should counter-sue to get his settlement money back.  It’s wrong on every level that he company got away with it and pressured Corolla into paying to make the problem go away.
    That was what I was wondering. If someone settles and the patent is later thrown out do they get their money back?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 13
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 689member
    Surely Apple should now use this as a precedent and sue Personal Audio to get back their $8 million? Plus costs of course. As should the EFF.
    bshankwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 13
    flydogflydog Posts: 112member
    DAalseth said:
    sflocal said:
    Adam Corolla should counter-sue to get his settlement money back.  It’s wrong on every level that he company got away with it and pressured Corolla into paying to make the problem go away.
    That was what I was wondering. If someone settles and the patent is later thrown out do they get their money back?

    Not unless it's spelled out in the settlement agreement. 
    jbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 13
    flydogflydog Posts: 112member

    tylersdad said:
    "System for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence."

    Doesn't this describe television? Is there someone at the patent office who is technical enough to identify a BS patent when they see one?

    Seems like no.
    What you just quoted is a snippet from a patent that runs over 28,000 words

    Next time it may benefit you to familiarize yourself with the facts before making baseless conclusions.

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8,112,504.PN.&OS=PN/8,112,504&RS=PN/8,112,504
    urahara
  • Reply 7 of 13
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,271member
    DAalseth said:
    sflocal said:
    Adam Corolla should counter-sue to get his settlement money back.  It’s wrong on every level that he company got away with it and pressured Corolla into paying to make the problem go away.
    That was what I was wondering. If someone settles and the patent is later thrown out do they get their money back?
    It requires additional legal action. It’s not like getting a refund from a retailer.
  • Reply 8 of 13
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,437member
    flydog said:
    DAalseth said:
    sflocal said:
    Adam Corolla should counter-sue to get his settlement money back.  It’s wrong on every level that he company got away with it and pressured Corolla into paying to make the problem go away.
    That was what I was wondering. If someone settles and the patent is later thrown out do they get their money back?

    Not unless it's spelled out in the settlement agreement. 
    Here's the general rule:
    Barring any clause allowing for it in the original licensing agreement there is no recovery of paid royalties if the underlying patent(s) is later deemed invalid. Period. Any followup lawsuit to recover them will almost certainly fail. That's established Federal case-law, Geffner v. Linear Bearings. So WRT royalties there's no guarantee and no return, all sales final. 

    Now since I mentioned it's a general rule that would imply an exception and there is tho it's near impossible to prove:  That the licensor knew the patent was invalid or did not exist and therefore used fraud to coerce royalties may allow a licensee to "get their money back".

    Outside of proof of fraud there is no recourse that I am aware of. Licensee beware.
    edited May 15 jbdragon
  • Reply 9 of 13
    tylersdadtylersdad Posts: 161member
    flydog said:

    tylersdad said:
    "System for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence."

    Doesn't this describe television? Is there someone at the patent office who is technical enough to identify a BS patent when they see one?

    Seems like no.
    What you just quoted is a snippet from a patent that runs over 28,000 words

    Next time it may benefit you to familiarize yourself with the facts before making baseless conclusions.

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8,112,504.PN.&OS=PN/8,112,504&RS=PN/8,112,504

    Well, I don't have time to read 28K+ words, but I did read the abstract. There isn't anything in the abstract that makes me think their idea is novel or new in any way. I'm still shocked that this patent was approved. The SCOTUS decision to not review the case bolsters my belief.
    jbdragonkenccgWerksbshankwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 13
    carnegiecarnegie Posts: 475member
    tylersdad said:
    flydog said:

    tylersdad said:
    "System for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence."

    Doesn't this describe television? Is there someone at the patent office who is technical enough to identify a BS patent when they see one?

    Seems like no.
    What you just quoted is a snippet from a patent that runs over 28,000 words

    Next time it may benefit you to familiarize yourself with the facts before making baseless conclusions.

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8,112,504.PN.&OS=PN/8,112,504&RS=PN/8,112,504

    Well, I don't have time to read 28K+ words, but I did read the abstract. There isn't anything in the abstract that makes me think their idea is novel or new in any way. I'm still shocked that this patent was approved. The SCOTUS decision to not review the case bolsters my belief.
    This patent may well have deserved to be invalidated. But you can't tell that about a given patent based on its abstract, and you certainly can't tell that based on its title.

    The abstract is a brief description of the invention. It does not spell out what is legally protected by the patent; the claims do that.

    This analogy isn't perfect, but we might think of a patent abstract as similar to a description of a home that someone owns: A white two-story house, made of brick, with 4 bedrooms and 2 baths and a modern kitchen with stainless steel appliances, on a three-acre lot on Sugarhill Drive. That doesn't legally describe what is owned as a metes and bounds specification, which might be found in a deed, would. It's possible that such a description, although it's fairly specific, could apply to a different home owned by someone else. But a metes and bounds specification should only fit a particular piece of property, and marks out what is owned more definitively.

    One might ask: How can the government say that a certain person owns that description of a home? It isn't necessarily unique, that description could fit homes that have existed for decades which are owned by others. Well, the government wouldn't (or shouldn't) say that a certain person owns that description of a home. Instead, the government would say that a certain person owns what is described (e.g. by a metes and bounds specification) in a deed. The claims of a patent are comparable to such a description. We need to look at them to judge whether they mark out intellectual property worthy of patent protection (because, among other reasons, they represent something that is novel).
    edited May 15 beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 11 of 13
    wonkothesanewonkothesane Posts: 1,265member
    DAalseth said:
    sflocal said:
    Adam Corolla should counter-sue to get his settlement money back.  It’s wrong on every level that he company got away with it and pressured Corolla into paying to make the problem go away.
    That was what I was wondering. If someone settles and the patent is later thrown out do they get their money back?
    It requires additional legal action. It’s not like getting a refund from a retailer.
    Maybe it should be. Could avoid some troll lawsuits in the first place from happening. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 13
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,271member
    DAalseth said:
    sflocal said:
    Adam Corolla should counter-sue to get his settlement money back.  It’s wrong on every level that he company got away with it and pressured Corolla into paying to make the problem go away.
    That was what I was wondering. If someone settles and the patent is later thrown out do they get their money back?
    It requires additional legal action. It’s not like getting a refund from a retailer.
    Maybe it should be. Could avoid some troll lawsuits in the first place from happening. 
    It would've benefitted me, so I'm somewhat in agreement.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 13
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,762member
    flydog said:
    What you just quoted is a snippet from a patent that runs over 28,000 words
    It doesn't matter if it were a million words, it ain't even close to podcasting.

    carnegie said:
    This patent may well have deserved to be invalidated. But you can't tell that about a given patent based on its abstract, and you certainly can't tell that based on its title.

    The abstract is a brief description of the invention. It does not spell out what is legally protected by the patent; the claims do that.

    This analogy isn't perfect, but we might think of a patent abstract as similar to a description of a home that someone owns: A white two-story house, made of brick, with 4 bedrooms and 2 baths and a modern kitchen with stainless steel appliances...
    Though if the abstract said: Brown and white animal with spots that moos....
    The abstract, aside from being something roughly to do with with media transmission, doesn't sound like podcasting at all. Would they write an abstract that didn't really relate to what was being patented?
    watto_cobra
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