Federal Circuit Confirms Invalidity of Podcasting Patent in Favor of Electronic Frontier Foundation

Takeaway: In a highly publicized patent infringement case, Electronic Frontier Foundation has come away with a win from the Federal Circuit, invalidating a patent concerning podcasting. This was an important win for EFF and its mission to fight patent trolls. The initial suit was filed back in 2013 in an effort to fight for the podcasting industry.

The court upheld a decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”). The PTAB originally found the patents-in-suit to be invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 102 and/or obvious under 35 U.S.C. § 103.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”) is a non-profit organization that claims to defend civil liberties in the digital world. In this suit, it represented popular podcasters in an attempt to invalidate the patents held by Personal Audio LLC.

An important issue for the court was standing. Because Electronic Frontier Foundation was a non-profit organization that was not infringing the product, the issue of standing was an initial hurdle that needed to be considered.

In Consumer Watchdog v. Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, 753 F.3d 1258 (Fed. Cir. 2014), the Federal Circuit held that a non-profit organization, described as representing the public interest, did not have standing to appeal to the Federal Circuit from the PTAB decision that sustained the validity of the patent Consumer Watchdog had challenged.

Fortunately, the party that brought the appeal was Personal Audio. Because Personal Audio satisfied the case and controversy under the constitutional requirements, there was no issue as to standing for EFF. Therefore, the court ruled that EFF is not constitutionally excluded from appearing in court to defend the PTAB decision in its favor, even though there likely would have been an issue if it were the sole entity bringing the suit in the first place.

At the PTAB, it initially found the patents-in-suit to be invalid as anticipated and obvious. The Federal Circuit agreed with the PTAB’s claim construction, finding no error in its analysis. For this reason, the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s decision, finding that the cited prior art anticipated the patents-in-suit.

Some of the people and entities that EFF was assisting were Adam Carolla, HowStuffWorks, CBS, and NBC. EFF has an ongoing effort to not only fight patent trolls, but also “defend free speech online, fight illegal surveillance, advocate for users and innovators, and support freedom-enhancing technologies.”