Podcaster Adam Carolla settles patent troll case

patent trollAn interesting little tidbit from the world of intellectual property litigation today: podcaster and actor Adam Carolla has settled a patent troll lawsuit which was getting a lot of attention. I know a little this because the Beloved is a devoted listener of Carolla’s prolifically produced podcast, and I it’s often on in the background while I cook dinner. I don’t care for Carolla much as a personality, but I have half paid attention to his complaining about the patent troll and his exhortation that we contribute to his legal defines fund to beat them down!

It turns out that it was not so much a ‘beat them down’ thing after all: Carolla has not defeated the patent troll, merely settled with them. From the article:

“If you haven’t been following the case, Personal Audio claims that patent 8,112,504 covers podcasting and went after a few of the “big names” with lawsuits, while sending demand/threat letters to many others. Carolla fought back hard, getting a bunch of other top podcasters to speak up as well, and point people to a crowdfunding campaign for a podcasting legal defense fund.”

A commenter to the Techdirt story quoted above posted a link to a blog post at the EFF which explains some of the consequences of the settlement in a little more detail. The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) continues to pursue their own case against this patent troll. As they point out, there are cases from this group which are still pending against TV stations, and by dropping out out of the fight, Carolla fails to achieve a precedent which will stop them from going after other podcasters.

But the news is not all bad. As the article explains:

“Carolla, his team, and everyone who donated in support deserves massive credit for putting up such a strong fight. The podcasting community showed that it would not be shaken down. Patent litigation is very expensive and most troll targets settle early just to avoid the cost of defense. By fighting back, Carolla forced Personal Audio to actually mount a case and establish that it deserved money. That turned out to be too hard for the troll.”

As the EFF article goes on to elaborate, Carolla was able to demonstrate that podcasting is not actually all that lucrative a business. So although he has settled, he likely has protected the smaller fishes somewhat because the ‘troll’ has realized that going after them will not be profitable. It’s a small win, but there you have it.

And the EFF people were a little more forgiving than Techdirt seemed to be about Carolla’s choice here. They pointed out how expensive such litigation is, and how the $500,000 Carolla raised from supporters would barely make a dent in litigation for a case of this complexity. It is exactly this problem which lets ‘trolls’ get away with it—they know it will be cheaper for people to pay them off than it will be for them to defend themselves, so they file the case not to win per se, but to simply,y shake down whatever they are able.

But the good news—at least for this involuntary listener—is that both sides have agreed to a ‘quiet period’ where nobody will discuss the case further. So that means I have until September 30 before my dinnertime ears will be polluted once again by Carolla ranting about this!

Image credit: EFF.org under a Creative Commons license

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