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Ask Personal Audio's James Logan About Patents, Playlists, and Podcasts 99 99

James Logan founded MicroTouch Systems in the 80s and served on the on the Board of Directors of, the company that acquired Slashdot back in 1999, but it is the company he founded in 1996, Personal Audio, that has garnered him much attention recently. Personal Audio sued Apple in 2009 for $84 million, claiming infringement on patents for downloadable playlists. Apple eventually lost the case and a jury ordered them to pay $8 million in damages. More recently, Personal Audio has filed suit against several prominent podcasters claiming that “Personal Audio is the owner of a fundamental patent involving the distribution of podcasts.” The EFF challenged the patents calling the company a patent troll saying, "Patent trolls have been wreaking havoc on innovative companies for some time now." The vice president of licensing for the Texas company counters that the EFF is working for "large companies against a small business and a couple of inventors," adding "Every defendant calls every plaintiff a patent troll. I've heard IBM called a patent troll. It's one of those terms everyone defines differently." Mr. Logan has agreed to answer your questions about his company and his patents. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
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Ask Personal Audio's James Logan About Patents, Playlists, and Podcasts

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  • Yeah (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 10, 2013 @11:29AM (#43962307)

    This is like someone trying to copyright uploading and downloading to and from the internet.

  • by barista (587936) on Monday June 10, 2013 @11:38AM (#43962417) Homepage
    Aside from litigation, how is your company using the patents in question?

    One definition of a patent troll is someone who uses patents solely for licensing and litigation.
  • Trolls (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 10, 2013 @11:39AM (#43962439)

    How do you justify $84 million for something as asininely obvious as sharing a playlist? Considering it is essentially a text file containing both order and identity of files to process?

    In short, why haven;t you eaten a bullet you fucking patent troll?

  • Why individuals? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Monday June 10, 2013 @11:41AM (#43962473)

    Pursuing the end users of a product which infringes upon one's patent is practically unheard-of. Why have you done so?

  • Nice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Monday June 10, 2013 @11:54AM (#43962649) Journal

    According to NPR last week, you basically invented books-on-tape, including distribution of same. Given people have been snail mailing messages on tape to each other since at least the '70s (and I know Charles Emerson Winchester III sent and received reel-to-reel tapes with his rich family in M*A*S*H in the 50s, probably reflective of reality) how could people doiing this on the Internet be any differemt? The mass distribution aspect? Seems like a stretch, when it's the equivalent of an audio printing press.

  • Cassette Tapes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CaseCrash (1120869) on Monday June 10, 2013 @12:03PM (#43962765)
    The only business you made with these patents was sending cassette tapes with some recorded articles that were chosen by the customer through the mail. How does this transfer to creating playlists and podcasting? Picking the listening order of sound files I got from the internet doesn't really seem like it should be protected intellectual property. How do you justify what you've done (a failed business in 1995) to justify payment (much much later) from people who had never heard of you or your patents when they made their services/products, and who apparently never tried to patent that process as it seemed too obvious to them?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 10, 2013 @12:10PM (#43962839)

    Mr. Logan,

    Here's a "comment" from the Computer World story linked above:

    'The company was able to hang on to several patents, however, and put them "in a drawer for 10 years," Baker added. "Is that a troll?"'
    Yes it is. That is exactly the definition of a troll. They weren't able to make it work, had no impact on the industry, failed and no one has ever heard of them. But when someone more enterprising independently comes up with a similar idea, solves all the problems that Personal Audio couldn't solve, popularises the concept, and makes it work, they somehow feel they are entitled to a piece of the action.

    Your thoughts?

  • by saihung (19097) on Monday June 10, 2013 @12:26PM (#43963049)

    Yes. This particular troll isn't the problem. The system that allows people to patent ideas, rather than inventions, is the problem. The notion, however, that taking advantage of a broken system to one's own advantage, even if it hurts everyone else, is blameless? That's crazy. Of course this troll is morally accountable for their actions. But to put it in question form:

    Why do you believe you deserve any money in licensing fees at all, when you haven't apparently done any of the work required to produce a product?

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday June 10, 2013 @12:28PM (#43963059) Homepage

    "The villains here are not really Logan, Goessling and Call - they are playing entirely by the rules as our (supposedly representative) government has set them."

    Way to shift the blame... The people running the Gas chambers at Auschwitz were not villains, it was all Hitlers fault.

  • invention??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sribe (304414) on Monday June 10, 2013 @01:03PM (#43963541)

    What exactly did you invent? I am not asking what general idea you described. I am asking what did you invent?

If all else fails, lower your standards.