On 10 April, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invalidated key aspects of patent-troll Personal Audio’s “podcasting patent” following a petition for review spearheaded by the Electronic Frontier Foundation with assistance from the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and other pro bono attorneys. Personal Audio had been using the patent to threaten podcasters with lawsuits unless a settlement was paid out.

ORDERED that Petitioner has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that claims 31–35 of U.S. Patent No. 8,112,504 B2 are unpatentable…

A key aspect of the successful petition was the evidence of “prior art” – podcasts or podcast-like productions that pre-dated the patent – which were researched in part through crowdsourcing.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invalidated key claims in the so-called “podcasting patent” today after a petition for review from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)—a decision that significantly curtails the ability of a patent troll to threaten podcasters big and small…In petitions filed with Patent Office, EFF showed that Personal Audio did not invent anything new before it filed its patent application, and, in fact, other people were podcasting for years previously.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

More Bad News for Patent Trolls

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled several software patents invalid because the patents did not cover a detailed process, but an abstract idea. This could place a number of dubious patents in software, technology, and science at risk of being invalidated in the future, too.

It may set a very important precedent for other legal cases involving lawsuits involving “patent trolls”. Currently, the most well-known of these actions has been efforts by Personal Audio to extort money from podcasters by threatening lawsuits based on supposed infringement of patents Personal Audio claims cover podcasting.

A key element of patent trolling is the inherent vagueness of the patent, which allows the concept of infringement to be drawn as widely as possible. The vague patent interpretation that makes patent trolling possible makes them vulnerable to being viewed as too broad, too abstract, or too vague by the courts and the US Patent Office. Indeed, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has reported success with getting the US Patent Office to narrow or invalidate overbroad patents.

This ruling may add another arrow to the quiver of those fighting the abuse of patents to stifle innovation*.

Hat tip to Giles Newton

*And your ability to listen to the WTF Podcast.

I get mail

Form Letter from Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Form Letter from Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

Yesterday, I was the unexpected recipient of a form letter from Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Like many others, I have sent Senator Graham missives via the internet regarding CISPA and CFAA. This would explain the first two sentences of the letter, the second of which conveys no actual information about Graham’s cyber security position.

Thank you for contacting me regarding cyber security. I believe that establishing a robust cyber security network that protect s our nation while adequately maintaining privacy is critically important to the United States.

In this time of tight budgets, you really did not need to waste the ink, letterhead, or postage on such inane correspondence. Continue reading “I get mail”

The CFAA Reform “Ask Me Anything”

A long list of characters and organizations  involved in the fight to reform the outdated and overly-broad Computer Fraud & Abuse Act (CFAA) – the law used to prosecute Aaron Swartz prior to his suicide and criminalizes violating user agreements – just did an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit. It is an interesting read:

I think there’s a growing constituency that opposes over-criminalization. CEI, Heritage, TechFreedom, Right On Crime, etc are helping to legitimize that position among conservative and libertarian Republicans, on spending and state authority grounds. The majority of Dems on House Judiciary, the committee of jurisdiction here, are in the orbit of the Progressive and/or Black Caucus, and are sympathetic to concerns about over-crim, prison industrial complex, etc. We need people who are working to legitimize those concerns/frames to keep up there work and have increased success as they do so, so we can discuss issues like the CFAA through those frames and have it resonate. – David Adam Segal, Executive Director of Demand Progress

There is an irony to people asking for fewer emails kind of spamming the thread, which will make you want to skip about 50% of the comments. Most take the form of “I really support your cause, but not enough to deal with a couple of extra emails each week.” Full credit to the reformers, as I did not see a single reply from them like, “Oh, you support us that much? THANKS!”

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