Did Ex-Westwood One Employees Engage In Patent Theft?


Knowledge of trade secrets, and their possible use for technology at another company, is a serious matter. It extends across multiple industries, including Radio.

Just ask Cumulus Media‘s national radio arm Westwood One. On Tuesday, it filed a lawsuit against an operation that provides 24/7 music radio programming with national talent and custom content.

Patent infringement is the crux of the matter.

As first shared by RBR+TVBR via Twitter late Wednesday, Westwood One filed a complaint for patent infringement against Local Radio Networks (LRN).

The filing was made March 2 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. Specifically, Westwood One claims LRN infringed on patent numbers 7,860,448 (Methods and Computer Programs for Localizing Broadcast Content) and 7,412,203 (Systems, Methods and Apparatus for Operating a Broadcast Network).

In the complaint, WWO accuses LRN of infringing on the “Methods and Computer Programs” patent “by making, using, selling, offering for sale, and/or importing its Radio Velocity Control computer hardware and software technology.”

Westwood One explains that the LRN Program “is a system that comprises several components: a Voice Tracker tool, an LRN Portal, a server, and a cloud storage site, each with its own code.”

Thus, in the view of the Cumulus-owned WWO, Radio Velocity Control is comprised of much of what Westwood One holds a patent for.

How could LRN gain explicit knowledge of the elements of the “Methods and Computer Programs for Localizing Broadcast Content” patent?

Former Westwood One employees went to work for LRN and shared the information with their new employer, it seems.

Patrick Crocker
Patrick Crocker

The complaint fingers LRN VP/Programming Operations Chris Reeves, who was VP/Operations at Westwood One from July 2009 until joining LRN in July 2017; Jonathon Steele, Director of Programming Operations at LRN from July 2017 who was previously a Westwood One Operations Manager; LRN Director of Creative Services/Voice Talent Chris Hatton; LRN VP of Regional Affiliate Sales Matt Caldaronello, who joined in January 2019 after serving for nearly 13 years as WWO’s VP of Affiliate Management; and EVP/Operations Patrick Crocker, who came on board at LRN in June 2019 after 23 years and 4 months at WWO, exiting as SVP/Affiliate Management.

In a statement released March 3 to the media, LRN said the claims “are legally and factually baseless” and that it “intends to vigorously defend against those claims.”

LRN was launched by Steve Swick in 2015 and, it claims, developed and uses its own technology.

“Six years after LRN’s successful launch in 2015, Westwood One is apparently giving up on trying to fairly compete and instead is trying to now use the courts to do what its programmers, engineers and affiliate sales people could not do,” the LRN statement reads, concluding that LRN “will not be bullied by a corporate radio Wall Street giant.”

In the complaint, Westwood asserts LRN knew about the alleged infringement since May  2020, when LRN was sent a cease and desist letter from WWO.

Similar claims are being made by WWO regarding the “Systems, Methods and Apparatus for Operating a Broadcast Network” patent. That’s because LRN has a software program that informs customers it delivers maximum custom localization and station owner control — an alleged infringement of WWO’s proprietary technology.

Skyview Networks, which distributes LRN’s music formats, is not involved in the lawsuit.

— Additional reporting by Ed Ryan and Rob Dumke