Updated with clarification from VoloMedia: VoloMedia announced today that it has been awarded what it called the “patent for podcasting.” According to the press announcement, patent number 7,568,213, titled “Method for Providing Episodic Media,” covers:
“…the fundamental mechanisms of podcasting, including providing consumer subscription to a show, automatically downloading media to a computer, prioritizing downloads, providing users with status indication, deleting episodes, and synchronizing episodes to a portable media device.”
Language from the patent claims can be found after the jump, or you can visit the USPTO site for more details.
When asked during a phone interview whether VoloMedia believes competitors are infringing on the patent and whether or not the company plans on enforcing it, founder Murgesh Navar declined to answer, saying only, “We’re not talking about violation or litigation.”
The only specifics Navar did share was that actual content creators wouldn’t be impacted, and that delivery mechanisms other than a PC (such as a set-top box) would fall under this patent. UPDATE: When asked about iTunes, where many people get their podcasts, Navar indicated VoloMedia is in talks with Apple (s AAPL) and TV networks, among others, “about growing the business and market.”
VoloMedia, which used be called Podbridge, filed for this particular patent in November 2003 — a time, Navar said, before it was obvious that people would download episodic content such as podcasts.
The patent award couldn’t have come at a better time for the company. It let go of its entire sales team last month to focus on its ad-serving technology. When we reported that story, Navar told us that venture capital term sheets were “imminent,” but when asked about the company’s funding situation for this post, Navar said that there was no update.
VoloMedia has admitted to being open to some kind of merger or acquisition, and trumpeting the fact that it’s been awarded a patent for “podcasting” could certainly be one way to drum up interest in the company.
At this point, we’ll have to see if any potential suitors bite, and whether VoloMedia will bare its teeth and use this patent to take bites out of the podcast market.
Here’s what the patent claims:
1. A method for providing episodic media, the method comprising: providing a user with access to a channel dedicated to episodic media, wherein the episodic media provided over the channel is pre-defined into one or more episodes by a remote publisher of the episodic media; receiving a subscription request to the channel dedicated to the episodic media from the user; automatically downloading updated episodic media associated with the channel dedicated to the episodic media to a computing device associated with the user in accordance with the subscription request upon availability of the updated episodic media, the automatic download occurring without further user interaction; and providing the user with: an indication of a maximum available channel depth, the channel depth indicating a size of episodic media yet to be downloaded from the channel and size of episodic media already downloaded from the channel, the channel depth being specified in playtime or storage resources, and the ability to modify the channel depth by deleting selected episodic media content, thereby overriding the previously configured channel depth.
2. The method of claim 1, further comprising automatically providing the user with an indication of the availability of updated episodic media via the channel dedicated to the episodic media in accordance with the subscription request.
3. The method of claim 1, further comprising synchronizing the updated episodic media automatically downloaded to the computing device associated with the user with a portable computing device communicatively coupled to the computing device associated with the user.
4. The method of claim 3, wherein synchronization of the updated episodic media automatically occurs in response to a predetermined user setting.
5. The method of claim 3, wherein synchronization of the updated episodic media occurs in response to a request received from the user.
6. The method of claim 1, wherein the updated episodic media is made available to users not associated with the computing device over a local area network.
7. The method of claim 1, wherein the automatic download is further based on a priority assigned to the channel.
8. The method of claim 3, wherein the channel dedicated to the episodic media is reduced in size during synchronization in order to fit available cache storage within the portable device.
9. The method of claim 1, wherein the channel dedicated to the episodic media is modified in size by removing one or more episodes of episodic media.