“The troubling trend of suing downstream users and content providers really makes us mad.” That was the rallying cry Tuesday of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a New York-based organization that bills itself as the “first line of defense when our freedoms in the networked world come under attack.” Specifically, the object of its scorn was a limited licensing company called Personal Audio, whose patent claim to podcasting technologies is the basis of lawsuits with such prominent podcasters as Adam Corolla’s ACE Broadcasting Network and HowStuffWorks.com. More generally, the EFF’s blog post served as a call to arms against a group sometimes called “patent trolls.”
For every growing start-up flush with VC cash, there is an opportunistic NPE (non-practicing entity) hoping to capitalize on its success by enforcing patent claims for products or technologies it has no ultimate plan to manufacture. Often these claims are broad and malleable — not unlike alleged troll Personal Audio’s podcasting patent (to wit, an “apparatus for disseminating a series of episodes represented by media files via the Internet as said episodes become available”).
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