Radio groups could be off the hook for patent royalties claimed by Mission Abstract Data LLC d/b/a Digimedia, which had sued seven broadcasters. The US Patent and Trademarks Office, moving quickly on its reexamination of the patent claims, has rejected all of the patent claims relating to storing and accessing music on hard drives for radio broadcasts. Digimedia now has until December 7th to appeal.
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.
As RBR-TVBR noted in the observation to our original story: “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 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.
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.
Digilmedia has until December 7th to appeal the Patent Office finding that its patent claims relating to radio are to be tossed out. The seven broadcasters it sued have cited the Patent Office action as a reason for the federal court hearing the lawsuit seeking damages to grant their motion to stay the proceedings until the Patent Office re-examination is finalized.
RBR-TVBR observation: This was a waste of legal fees right from the beginning, 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 are spending considerable sums of money fighting the lawsuit and several equipment manufacturers are spending considerable sums of money fighting to have the patent claims revoked.
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