For years, a company called Personal Audio has been slowly filing lawsuits against podcasters, saying that the very act of podcasting without paying Personal Audio a licensing fee was a violation of a patent held by the company. A couple of months ago, it seemed as though the company had been stopped in its tracks by a settlement it made with podcasting juggernaut Adam Carolla, for exactly $0. But yesterday, Personal Audio won a $1.3 million verdict against CBS.
CBS argued that the patent held by Personal Audio was invalid, but a jury disagreed. The verdict found that CBS should pay $1.3 million, which is substantially less than the $7.8 million that Personal Audio allegedly asked for.
Personal Audio has been held up a shining example of everything that's wrong with the patent system in the US because it's not a company that actually makes anything. It's just a holding company that has this patent and files lawsuits against a variety of podcasters. It has gone after Jesse Thorn's Maximum Fun network, Marc Maron's WTF, and of course, Adam Carolla.
Last month, in a press release about its settlement with Adam Carolla, the company said "Personal Audio has dismissed several podcasters from litigation because it was not worth litigating over the amount of damages involved" - essentially "you are not making enough money to be worth suing." Personal Audio also told Zoe Chace for This American Life that it had no intention of going after non-profit podcasters at this time, so your favorite public radio shows are safe. But since this ruling validated the Personal Audio patent, if a for-profit show or podcast network ever becomes popular enough, they will likely be in the crosshairs of Personal Audio.
For now, Personal Audio is moving on to lawsuits against NBC and Fox.