In late 2013, a failed audio company called Personal Audio started sending a series of threatening letters to small podcasters, claiming that it owned the patent for podcasting, and that they had to stop broadcasting, otherwise the company would sue. The podcasters brought in the Electronic Freedom Foundation, who challenged the letters and submitted an "inter partes review" that would challenge Personal Audio's claim to the podcast patent.
The case was recently resolved after 18 months of deliberation. The United States Patent and Trademark Office revealed that neither Personal Audio nor its founder, Jim Logan, "are owed any money by podcasters because of US Patent No. 8,112,504, which describes a 'system for disseminating media content repesenting episodes in a serialized sequence,'" Ars Technica reported.
The 504 patent has a 1996 patent date. However, the EFF fought back by arguing that this wasn't the beginning of episodic content in the way that Personal Audio claims that it is.
"The EFF relied on two key examples of earlier technology to beat the patent: one was CNN's 'Internet Newsroom,' which patent office judges found fulfilled the key claims of having '(1) episodes; (2) an updated compilation file; and (3) a 'predetermined URL' for the compilation file,'" according to Ars Technica.
While this isn't the first time that the EFF has fought "patent trolls", it is the first time that the legal group asked for crowd-funding to fund the challenge.
The EFF may have been able to stop Personal Audio, but the organization expects Personal Audio to pursue other patents in order to get royalties from podcasts. Logan has a reputation for suing other companies over the fact that they created devices similar to the one he attempted (and failed) to sell in the 90s.