Marketplace Scratch Pad

A patent on podcasting

Scott Jagow Jul 30, 2009

Somebody had to invent podcasting, right? Or is getting a patent on it now, at today’s tech speed, kind of like Al Gore claiming he invented the Internet? You decide. A company called Volomedia has been awarded a patent for a “method for providing episodic media content.” Or, as the company puts it, Volomedia now owns the “US patent for podcasting.”

Here’s what Volomedia’s Murgesh Navar says on the company’s blog:

With specific reference to our newly issued 7,568,213 patent, it was filed in November 2003, almost a year before the start of podcasting. This helps underscore the point, that for nearly six years, VoloMedia has been focused on helping publishers monetize portable media…. and has continued these efforts with the addition of a wide array of smartphone-based applications…

VoloMedia’s intent is to continue to work collaboratively with key participants in the industry, leveraging its unique range of products to further grow and accelerate the market. Today, podcasting is 100% RSS-based. However, the patent is not RSS-dependent. Rather, it covers all episodic media downloads.

Volomedia’s client list includes MSNBC, Fox, ABC, Slate, Apple and others. More from Ars Technica:

VoloMedia tells Ars that it doesn’t intend to embark on a shakedown operation, though. “Our focus is to generate revenues through our products and technologies,” a company rep tells us. “VoloMedia is not entertaining or pursuing any licensing conversations…

If Volomedia does try to use its patent as money-printing device, they’re liable to be singing, “who let the dogs out?”. Again from Ars Technica:

We spoke with Andy Hein of the Red Chalk Group, an IP consulting firm, who oversees his company’s “exhaustive invalidity service,” and he explained how such a process works. If a company like VoloMedia emerges with a broad patent and goes after deep-pocketed industry players, those companies are likely to seek out patent invalidation services to either knock out the patent or to provide valuable leverage in a trial (which runs about $3 million-$5 million, on average).

But, let’s back up for a second. Did Volomedia really invent podcasting? Two guys named Dave Winer and Adam Curry were working on RSS-based media downloads at least two years before Volomedia filed its patent. Winer wrote this post January 11th, 2001. It clearly describes podcasting:

Here’s an example of a RSS file that links to several Grateful Dead songs.

Each contains an as explained above.

I’ve configured my system to download enclosures between 2AM and 4AM, a time when I don’t use my computer.

When I arrive at work, I check the incoming Log and see there’s a new song.

I click. It plays.

No wait.

But Volomedia is the one with patent, so they’re going to be the epicenter of the battle. It’ll be interesting to see if a company like Apple decides to play along and negotiate with Volomedia or tries to fight. That could go a long way in determining how this plays out.

Volomedia is clearly planning to dig its hands into the cookie jar. This was also in the company’s blog entry:

There will come a day when all the content on Hulu is available as an episodic download…
The impact of a strong growing IP portfolio is such that we would expect new entrants into the podcasting arena to have a collaborative relationship with VoloMedia, just as do many of the current players.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.