VoloMedia Awarded the “Patent for Podcasting”

58 Comments

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.

58 Comments

Kevin

Does it mean that everyone using podcasting on their sites should now pay them or ask for the license from them?

gary

years ago, circa 2001 or 02, creative labs had bundled a similar product that provided the sort of features. anyone who owned a nomad juke box probably had that software

Adrian Kennedy

As a patent examiner this is a textbook case where a Chomisky based 103 rejection should be applied.

I would argue that the ability to subscribe to books on tape and them being episodic in nature would have been obvious at the time of invention.

Also, how does “automatic downloading occurr without further user interaction”? Does the iPod plug itself in? Does it use a WiFi connection? If I could I would re-exam this application myself I would.

Finally, to any patent examiners out there reading this. Just remember, if the application if allowed has the possibility of getting you in the news, work a little harder. I’m just saying.

N000RM

Reminds me a lot of what SCO tried with Linux…and you see how well that worked out for them. However, I do not blame VoloMedia for this maneuver. The USPTO has a history of issuing patents for broad, vague claims. Why didn’t they just file a claim for all rich media downloaded to a personal computing device. That is nearly as specific as their claim, IMO.

Derek Colanduno

This whole thing is a NON story people. There is a reason why many things don’t have patents, or if they got them it wouldn’t be worth anything.

Let us say someone went off to patent the wheel.

Who cares, any court will just laugh at anyone who tried to sue a tire company who would be ‘in breech’ of the patent.

So they have a patent, who cares…. they haven’t done any work to keep it or defend it for far too long now. So, just ignore it and go back to your regularly scheduled life.

Hey, Joe

Hmmm… 2nd try to get this comment posted…

I’m pretty sure this patent does not apply to podcasting.

The flaw is apparent in the first claim with the text, “receiving a subscription request to the channel dedicated to the episodic media from the user…”

It implies a server-side subscription. Podcast subscriptions are client-side.

Hey, Joe

I think it fails in the first claim with the words, “receiving a subscription request to the channel.”

That implies a server-side subscription model. Subscriptions to podcasts are made from the client-side.

Michael S Cox

I agree with the comment that VoloMedia are incorrect in saying that this patent was “non obvious”, even in 2003. The concept of episodic, electronic media updates has existed since the early days of usenet. A concrete example of which would be the “Risks Digest” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RISKS_Digest) which would deliver a periodical update/summary of technology and computer associated risks and events to subscribers. They have been doing this since 1985 (a good few decades prior to 2003 if my maths is correct).

Is this not a clear case of prior art?

Pseudonym

VoloMedia is simply incorrect in saying that it was “not obvious” that people would be downloading episodic media at that point in history. Everyone knew it was going to happen once a standard had been settled on.

Essentially all of the parts of podcasting were in place before November 2003. Christopher Lydon’s interviews started being published in MP3-in-RSS-enclosure format in September of that year. A script to syncrhonise such feeds with an iPod (Kevin Marks’ RSS2iPod script) was released in October.

In fact, Dave Winer added enclosures to the RSS format in 2000 precisely because users wanted to make audio blogs. If that’s not “episodic media”, I don’t know what is.

Matt

In further news, VoloMedia announced its immediate relocation to the Eastern District of Texas.

CG

To Jim Williams,

re: How can it be a podcasting patent podcasting was not even around when they filed this

That is the essence of an “invention” – creating something that did not previously exist.

Doug Webb

I don’t see anything in the patent that will get it past Bilski. This patent will definitely be invalidated because it does not specify a particular machine. The users computer or ipod is not enough.

Joseph H

‘Navar indicated VoloMedia is in talks with Apple and TV networks, among others, “about growing the business and market.”’

Oh, I get it. VoloMedia’s acquisition pitch is now “Buy us and our patent and YOU can sue your competitors out of existence.”

Murgesh Navar

Clarifying a comment in the post above attributed to me, we are “not” in conversations with anyone related to this patent.

VoloMedia’s main 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. This patent helps to reinforce the value of the various technologies and services that VoloMedia has developed to help publishers monetize their episodic downloads. More detailed thoughts at: http://www.downloadablemedia.org/index.php/category/blog

Jim Williams

How can it be a podcasting patent podcasting was not even around when they filed this. I bet this company turns into a patent troll you just watch.

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