UPDATE: NPR recently featured a story including our patent expert Tom Ewing about Personal Audio LLC and what it has to do with patent trolls, companies who litigate more than they innovate. If you’re wondering who this company really is or what it has to do with podcasting, here’s what we discovered about Personal Audio LLC, below.
aNewDomain.net — News is out about a little-known firm called Personal Audio LLC, which has sued Adam Carolla and his Ace Broadcasting for patent infringement based on claims around playlists. Carolla’s in good company. Personal Audio LLC sued Apple — and won $8 million — and sued or settled with such companies as Amazon, Samsung and several others. Check out a patent war infographic on the role Apple plays, here.
So who is Personal Audio LLC? And does it really, as so many fear, hold a fundamental patent that affects all podcasters everywhere? Certainly, it has the Electronic Frontier Foundation up in arms. Check out Tom Ewing’s appeal to U.S. President Barack Obama regarding the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission investigation of patent trolls here.
UPDATE: APRIL 10, 2013 — According to legal records, Personal Audio LLC has sued: Ace Broadcasting Network, LLC, Amazon, Apple, Archos, Coby Electronics Corp., High Tech Computer Corp./HTC, Howstuffworks.com, Lucky Goldstar LG Electronics, Motorola Mobility, Research in Motion, Samsung Electronics, Sirius XM Radio and Togi Entertainment.
With so much disinformation and so many transparency issues surrounding the patent wars, no wonder the FTC and DOJ are planning an antitrust investigation. Consider mega patent assertion entity Intellectual Ventures. Such PAEs litigate, rather than invent, for dollars.
We know from court documents that the biggest tech firms in the world support IV and invest millions in it. A source speaking not for attribution from Verizon told me it was “protection” money and that the millions it spent were so it could use IV’s tens of thousands of patents to protect itself.
We know from a Stanford Law Review article that IV is a firm, perhaps not the only one, that sues companies under the veil of more than 1,200 strangely-named shells. We know that even self-appointed investigators of IV — like IP Touch — do not disclose ties to IV when starting an outing mission to find out who IV really is.
Scroll below for links and info on all that reporting from our site.
We also know that, in a recent USPTO call for comments on transparency issues around patent “trolls” that one proponent was actually an IV attorney. Below the fold find a letter from law professor Robin Feldman making the case for more transparency.
As you see from the corporatewiki snapshot I took, Personal Audio LLC, based in a patent-litigation-friendly area in Texas, doesn’t stand alone. James Logan and other individuals and entities are connected. All would potentially benefit from Personal Audio LLC’s settled cases, licensing agreements and various ongoing patent suits against Apple, Amazon, Sirius, Samsung and other major companies and big podcasters the world over. Its suit against Adam Carolla and his Ace Broadcasting is readable in place below.
Scroll below the fold to see the ties James Logan has to Motorola, Intellectual Ventures and others, according to public record.
The patent the Ace Broadcasting case is based on is U.S. patent 8,112,504: “system for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence” by Logan et. al. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted it on February 7, 2012. Basically, it appears to cover anything that one would call a “podcast.” Scroll below for a diagram from that patent claim — and the entire patent is embedded below.
The U.S. patent 8,112,504 is broad. Its original filing goes back to 1996. A read of it shows it appears to cover pretty much any audio that is recorded and made available over the Internet. Here’s an image from the patent. Check out the full patent in place below the image.
Here’s the case as filed by Personal Audio LLC against Adam Carolla and Ace Broadcasting.
That brings us back to the original question. Who is Personal Audio LLC, and additionally, did inventor James Logan really and truly understand what he was inventing when he first filed for this invention describing pretty much exactly what podcasters do today — offer episodes of audio shows via a predetermined URL.
Remember that Personal Audio, LLC has brought 10 patent infringement cases against more than a dozen companies, including the one it recently won with Apple, plus suits and settlements with Amazon, Samsung, and many more.
The company, looking at corporate records for Personal Audio LLC (the Beaumont, TX entity that is the suing entity) and Personal Audio Inc., have in common the inventor James D. Logan. He holds at least 29 U.S. patents.
We know Logan was the CEO of Microtouch, Inc., a company The 3M Company bought after a gnarly bidding war with Tyco Electronics.
The SEC fined Logan for certain actions that he took as part of the Microtouch sale.
Shortly after, Logan worked for GoToIt Media, a company that was later purchased by Digitalsmiths, Inc. Some patents Logan originally filed were acquired by GoToIt and then Digitalsmiths. And here is where it gets interesting, says renowned patent attorney and advisor to the United Nations, Tom Ewing.
“The emerging patent market seems to have been good for (inventor) Logan,” Ewing said. “In addition to his litigation victories (in the Apple case and others), he has also sold five patents to Intel, one patent to Motorola, and two patents to at least one LLC that is a shell company for Intellectual Ventures. There is a second LLC he sold patents to that is also suspected to be an IV shell company.”
Selling patents to Intellectual Ventures is common. Most major tech firms in the world have invested in the multibillion dollar patent assertion firm “as a form of protection,” one source told me. Members who invest get access to certain patents they might use in offensive or defensive strategies.
And then there’s that Logan firm called GoToIt, which he later sold. What’s GoToIt got to do with it?
“GoToIt sued Microsoft for patent infringement related to MS Silverlight-product use during the 2008 Olympics,” patent expert Ewing said, again drawing from public records. Documents from that litigation showed that Motorola was a significant shareholder in GoToIt.
So James Logan and Motorola are connected or were. As for Microsoft, its former CTO Nathan Myhrvold runs Intellectual Ventures and invests heavily in the so-called patent troll or patent assertion entity.
“The three patents in the Microsoft litigation all list Logan as the first-named inventor,” Ewing added. GoToIt and Microsoft settled the dispute several months after the lawsuit was filed.
Check the links for the patents involved there — that would be U.S. patent 6,631,271, which Logan sold to Intel as you can see from the assignment database here.
The other assigned (sold) patents mentioned up above that went to either Microsoft or Intellectual Ventures, of which Microsoft was a co-founder and investing member, are listed below.
Right around the time of his work at GoToIt, records show Logan started a patent licensing company called Pause Technology, LLC.
Pause is still registered in Delaware though corporate searches don’t show it to be actively in business. Interestingly, Logan sued a number of digital broadcasting companies via Pause.
Logan also developed another patent licensing company called Emergent Technologies, which also appears to no longer be active. Logan’s core team includes other inventors and a patent attorney, Charles Call. Emergent, interestingly, at one point including Mark Lowenstein.
Lowenstein later headed corporate strategy for Verizon and is now a director at Mobile Ecosystems.
This excerpt is from a piece I wrote for Computerworld that explains the lack of transparency and how it fuels patent wars, disrupts innovation and passes along cost to the consumer.
“Most of the major tech companies are backing a troll in some way, probably financially,” says Thomas Ewing, an attorney who has authored reports on what he calls “patent privateering” and whether patent “giants” are dangerous for American innovation.
One example, according to patent attorneys and other experts, is Intellectual Ventures (IV) — a patent-licensing firm founded in 1999 by former Microsoft executives Nathan Myhrvold and Ed Jung, among others. According to a court document (PDF) that IV filed in April 2011 and then fought to keep secret (PDF), IV investors include Adobe Systems, Apple Inc., Cisco Systems, eBay Inc., Google, Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Nokia, Nvidia International Holdings, SAP America Inc., Sony Corp., Verizon and Xilinx, Inc.
Each of these tech companies made a financial investment in IV; all except Google and Adobe went for more than one round of funding. IV has raised at least $5 billion from investors, including tech firms.
– See more at: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9225831/Why_tech_vendors_fund_patent_trolls_#sthash.gj8b0m88.dpuf
Below is Robin Feldman’s letter to the USPTO — urging transparency. Then people will know who Personal Audio and VirnetX really are, and what if anything they have to do with Intellectual Ventures and other multibillion dollar patent assertion entities.