Going back many years now we've written about the company Personal Audio, which built itself up as a patent troll for digital audio. Back in 2011, it won a patent lawsuit against Apple over patents on playlists. In 2013, as podcasting was starting to take off, Personal Audio decided that one of its other patents actually covered podcasting as well and sued some top podcasters while threatening many others. EFF stepped in to use the valuable inter partes review process to seek to invalidate the patent, which worked. Though, in the process the company sought to intimidate EFF donors.
While all of this was happening, the company also realized that podcasters don't make any money, and figured out how to dump its lawsuits against individual podcasters... while still going after large companies like CBS.
After the Patent Office's appeals board (PTAB) invalidated the patent, Personal Audio went to court to overturn the ruling. Last year, an appeals court rejected that attempt, noting that the PTAB was correct in invalidating the patent. Personal Audio still kept fighting, and asked the Supreme Court to hear it's appeal.
Thankfully, on Monday, the Supreme Court denied that request, meaning that Personal Audio's podcasting patent is finally, truly and completely, dead.
Still, the fact that this process took about five years and a ton of time in court should demonstrate just what a drag bogus patents can be on the economy and innovation. It also shows just how valuable a bogus patent can be for the trolls that hold them. Even after Personal Audio realized that all the podcasters it was trying to shakedown had little money to hand out, it still fought to the bitter end in trying to keep the patent alive, knowing that it could successfully get larger media companies to pay up. So this is a victory, but also a demonstration of just how broken the patent system is. Personal Audio did nothing to help podcasts become a thing. It did nothing to help podcasts move forward or become popular. Its only contribution to the podcast world was to wreak havoc on a bunch of podcasters, scaring many of them and costing them a ton of money in legal fees. That's all a dead weight loss to the economy, that could have gone into making more and better content.