A US company has been granted a patent that it claims gives it rights over podcasting technology. VoloMedia says that its patent, for "a method for providing episodic media", covers all episodic media downloads, or podcasts.
The company said that it would expect podcasters to have "a collaborative relationship" with it.
"The episodic media download industry is still in its infancy," said VoloMedia's Murgesh Navar in a blog post. "There will come a day when all the content on Hulu is available as an episodic download. Consumers will then have legitimate choices in how they consume their media: on a downloaded and portable basis, or by visiting a content aggregation website."
"As the medium matures, one would expect to see new entrants into the episodic download arena," he said. "The impact of a strong growing IP portfolio is such that we would expect new entrants into the podcasting arena to have a collaborative relationship with VoloMedia, just as do many of the current players."
VoloMedia is an audience tracking and advertising company for downloadable media that aims to help companies with advertising campaigns.
The patent, number 7,568,213 at the US Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO), protects "a method for providing episodic media, the method comprising: providing a user with access to a channel dedicated to episodic media, wherein the episodic media provided over the channel is pre-defined into one or more episodes by a remote publisher of the episodic media".
The patent also describes methods of telling users that new content is available and automatically downloading new files as they become available.
Navar admitted in his blog post that the patent is 'relatively broad' in its coverage. He said that the company has applied for 12 patents, and that this was the first that was due to be decided on.
"It was filed in November 2003, almost a year before the start of podcasting," he wrote. "This helps underscore the point, that for nearly six years, VoloMedia has been focused on helping publishers monetize portable media."
"The patent that issued yesterday helps to tie together and reinforce the value of the various technologies and services that VoloMedia has developed to help accomplish this objective," he said. "VoloMedia's intent is to continue to work collaboratively with key participants in the industry, leveraging its unique range of products to further grow and accelerate the market."
Digital rights groups in the US have long protested about the breadth of some technology-related patents. They argue that patents for broad inventions or for things that have already been invented damage others' ability to invent.
An innovative system was established at the USPTO called Peer to Patent. It was designed to help patent examiners by allowing individuals to find prior examples of technology and submit it to examiners of patents in the hope that no patent would be issued for pre-existing material.
The programme was not given permission to continue for a third year.
Navar's statement can be read here.
An OUT-LAW podcast on internet collaboration in the US patent system is available here.
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