A company has been awarded a patent for providing episodic media downloads, which essentially gives it a patent on all forms of podcasting.
The company, VoloMedia, calls itself the "leading provider of advertising and reporting solutions for portable media, extending the reach of video and audio from the PC to devices such as smartphones (e.g., iPhone, Android, BlackBerry), media players (e.g., iPod, Touch) and set-top boxes (e.g., Apple TV, Vudu) whether connected or offline." The patent was filed in 2003.
In a blog entry, company founder Murgesh Navar said it had filed a dozen patents since 2003 and this is just the first, with others to follow.
What is making some people nervous is the broad nature of the patent. "Today, podcasting is 100% RSS-based," Navar said. "However, the patent is not RSS-dependent. Rather, it covers all episodic media downloads. It just so happens that, today, the majority of episodic media downloads are RSS-based podcasts, which is why we titled our announcement the way we did."
Consequently, today the Internet was ablaze with people citing prior art -- or, examples of people describing podcasting before this patent went into effect, which should have meant VoloMedia should not have been able to patent the idea. Most notable is a January 11, 2001 blog posting by Dave Winer, describing the technology that VoloMedia uses.
Patents in the computer industry have a long history of being overly broad, ignoring prior art, and eventually being overturned. In particular, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has worked to eliminate overly broad patents.
It is not clear which companies VoloMedia plans to approach for licensing fees based on this patent, though Navar cites Hulu in his blog posting.