U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Stark has denied a motion by Mission Abstract Data and its DigiMedia Holding Group LLC, to lift the existing stay in their patent infringement suit against a number broadcast groups. The judge said 3/25 he will lift the stay once the U.S. Patent Office completes reexamination of both patents involved in the suit.
Beasley Broadcasting, CBS Radio, Cox Radio, Cumulus, Entercom, Greater Media and Townsquare Media had all been sued by DigiMedia, which had acquired the patents filed in 1994 and 1997 by Robert Goldman, who claimed to have invented the idea of storing music on hard drives for radio stations to access digitally for on-air broadcasts. The patents also deal with accessing music for cable TV.
In moving to reject the patent claims pertaining to radio broadcasting, the patent review primarily cited a Digilink Digital Audio Workstation Ops Manual published in 1992, a Dalet On Air Workstation Operation Manual published in 1992 and a Dalet ad published in 1993 by Radio World magazine.
Those claims seem rather dubious, since multiple products were already on the market when the patent applications were filed.
Indeed, the patent re-examination found that Goldman’s claims regarding selection and retrieval of music from a digital database stored on a hard drive for broadcast by a radio station should be rejected as not being patentable. The first review found, based on the ad and the two manuals, that the key patent claims “would have been obvious to a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time.” In other words: not a new idea.
The case has been stayed since November, 2011. Mission Abstract Data sued the broadcasters in federal court in March, 2011. The USPTO had ordered a second reexamination “prior art” not previously available was presented. Broadcast Electronics, which is not a defendant in the case, filed the original ex parte reexamination request with the USPTO. Some of the patent claims were upheld, relating to cable TV, primarily because the Dalet and Digilink manuals didn’t address an interactive cable TV system. To date there is no indication that Digimedia has attempted to claim that any cable TV operator owes it any patent royalties.
RBR-TVBR observation: This is obviously a patent troll case, since it was obvious to anyone knowledgeable of the radio industry at the time that the technology was already known and in widespread use when the patents were filed. Nonetheless, seven broadcasting companies spent considerable money fighting the lawsuit and several equipment manufacturers are spending considerable sums of money fighting to have the patent claims revoked.