James Logan: Patent Troll

Way back in the olden thymes I had one of those conversations familiar to anyone in the tech world back then. The web was just getting going and everyone was putting up websites hoping to get rich. Someone I knew was involved in one such venture. He was giving me the elevator speech about how it was positioned to take advantage of synergies and vectors and so on.

After he was done I asked him how they planned to make money. I was not being cheeky, I just assumed he left that part out for some reason. Instead of telling me, he went into another spiel about unique visitors per month and page visits. My reply was something about the bank not taking page visits as payment on his mortgage. He thought I was daft, but not long after, the venture collapsed.

The great challenge of the tech boom was figuring out how to make money from things people did not need, but they could possibly want. Some services like porn figured it out for a while. Others like eBay and PayPal came up with real businesses to replace existing businesses. Others figured out how to transfers big chunks of their costs onto some unsuspecting sucker like the ISP.

Others figured out how to tax you through your phone bill or tax the person with who you were doing e-commerce. These parasites were not looking to add value to the system, but rather extract value. This is where patent trolls come into play. They shake down companies for rents, abusing the patent laws. They are just gaming the legal system to control an artificial bottleneck. That’s the racket of dirtbags like James Logan.

James Logan freely admits that he’s never made a podcast.

But he also insists he helped create the medium of podcasting. Logan says that it happened in 1996 — and that he has the patents to prove it.

In a controversial legal battle, PersonalAudio, the company founded by Logan, is suing comedian Adam Carolla’s ACE Broadcasting, two other podcasters and networks Fox, CBS and NBC, saying they are infringing on his copyright and owe him money.

The trial begins in September. Carolla has taken to the Web to raise money for legal fees against what he called “patent trolls.”

Carolla says he needs $1.5 million to face PersonalAudio in an East Texas courtroom that historically has been favored by patent litigants. So far, Carolla has pulled in just over $370,000 on the Fundanything.com crowdfunding website, including a $20,000 donation from e-commerce giant Amazon.

“The first thing they (PersonalAudio) said was ‘Give us $3 million,'” says Carolla, whose show is listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the most downloaded podcast ever. When faced with the suit, Carolla said he chose to fight.

“Obviously, $3 million is out of the question,” he says. “But even if they said tomorrow, ‘Give us $100,000, and this will all go away’ — $100,000 for what?”

Should he lose, Carolla says he might shut down his show, a sentiment seconded online by others.

Podcasting has been around since at least 2004, initially as a vehicle to supply non-music programming for the Apple iPod, which launched in 2001. Apple began offering podcasts, through subscriptions and downloads, via its iTunes app in 2005.

As the popularity of smartphones and tablets has eliminated the need for subscriptions and downloads, sites such as TuneIn Radio, SoundCloud, Stitcher and Swell offer instant listening, both on the Web and via increasingly popular smartphone apps.

Nerdist’sChris Hardwick built a huge online following with his podcast, which he parlayed into a high-profile hosting gig with cable network AMC. Comedian Aisha Tyler, a co-host of TV’s The Talk, parlayed her popular podcast Girl on Guy into a best-selling book, Self-Inflicting Wounds. National Public Radio has found huge audiences for shows such as This American Life, Snap Judgement and Fresh Air, which regularly top the iTunes podcast charts.

The trials — six separate suits between PersonalAudio and Carolla, Discovery Networks, podcaster Togi Entertainment and the broadcast networks — will take place in a small Texan town with 24,000 residents. Marshall, three hours east of Dallas and near the Arkansas border, has become known as the “patent trial capital”, a popular place to get a trial in a city whose docket isn’t filled with other cases waiting to get a hearing.

Many patent cases take place there, and historically, litigants win 60% of the time, according to a recent study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Carolla’s team fought the locale, seeking a bigger city and fearing the history.

PersonalAudio, based in Beaumont, Texas, has a handful of employees working on creating new technologies, says Logan, who himself is based in New Hampshire.

PersonalAudio has no products but instead owns patents and investments in several companies, including consumer tech company Bringerr.

Logan’s 1996 idea predates podcasting as we know it. His concept was downloadable entertainment via the Internet to a new kind of MP3 player he was trying to market. The product fizzled, so he switched gears to subscription of cassette tapes. He filed for and was granted several patents, which included the notion of having downloaded playlists.

In 2009, PersonalAudio amended the patent to include podcasting.

It is patently obvious this guy is adding nothing to any of these companies. They are not using his technology. He has not created anything unique or original that they are relying upon to do their work. He is good at fooling stupid government clerks in the patent office into giving him rights to things he never created. His entire business is built around the idea of finding someone he can sue in a courtroom full of rubes.

That’s the main problem with these patent suits. Their claims have no relationship with the real value of their product. Carolla would never pay $3 million to this idiot in order to record a podcast. He probably would not pay anything. Instead he would find some other way to do his show without using whatever it is this guy claims he owns. James Logan is simply a highwayman, one that robs you on the internet.