Adam Carolla is teaming up with fellow podcaster Marc Maron to pit the ex-Man Show host’s “pirate ship” against what he calls the patent trolls out to sink it.
Carolla’s new cause hopes to rally his listeners on behalf of business owners like himself targeted through federal lawsuits.
The duo will be joined March 27 by former Man Show co-host Jimmy Kimmel, musician Andy Summers, comedian Doug Benson and Carolla’s longtime radio/podcast partner Dr. Drew Pinsky for a legal fundraiser at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center in California.
Patent trolls, or rather patent assertion entities (PAE) or non practicing entities (NPE) if you want to be politically correct, are nothing new to the world of business. Companies as big as Apple, Yahoo, MSN, Reddit and AOL have all been sued by these “non practicing entities” for infringing on legal patents.
The way a patent troll works is this: companies buy up generic patents that could loosely apply to various emerging businesses. These companies then sue said emerging companies for infringing on the generic patents. Because fighting these patent trolls can cost so much money, many businesses and business owners simply settle. Those who battle against the PAEs insist that is the goal all along.
One such example of this is Drew Curtis. The owner of Fark.com was one of many sued by a company claiming to own a patent for the “creation and release of news releases via email.” After deciding to fight against the generic patent (which he claimed didn’t even legally apply to his website), Curtis realized how expensive it can become to ward off these patent holders. According to Curtis, fighting a patent troll in court can cost you 18 months and at least $2 million–if you win.
Curtis is an example of someone that won against his patent troll adversary, but other companies sued by patent trolls like Yahoo and AOL have chosen to settle out of court. Many don’t know the amounts patent trolls can typically win or if they usually win since most of these settlements are apart of non-disclosure agreements.
Carolla is just the most recent victim of patent trolls. He’s being sued by a “non practicing entity” called Personal Audio. According to the FundAnything page Carolla has set up for his legal fund, Personal Audio claims to have a patent for “all media over the internet.” Other podcasters being sued and attacked include Maron and Chris Hardwick (of Nerdist fame).
Instead of settling out of court, Carolla has chosen to take his fight public. Along with a FundAnything crowdfunding page, Carolla has been making the media rounds appearing on HuffPost Live, The Howard Stern Show and other media programs to rally support for his fight against Personal Audio.
After all, as Carolla says, “If I go down, we all go down.” And it’s somewhat true.
If Personal Audio manages a victory against a top rated podcast like Carolla’s then they will have legal standing to go after every other podcast out there. The flip side of that being that if Carolla can manage to win his lawsuit then other podcasts will have their own legal standing which will help them win their own cases without wasting so much money.
The argument for patent trolls can really only be that they very technically work within the law. However, they very loosely do so. The real problem is the patent laws on the books. These non-practicing entities have found a way to be awarded patents so generic and broad based that the government is practically giving them legal permission to extort businesses. It’s a problem with the issuing of such patents as well as being an issue with companies holding patents despite never actually producing content or using any of the generic rights described in their patents.
As of this writing, Carolla’s FundAnything campaign has acquired more than $180,000 for their legal defense. Thursday’s fundraising event will likely boost the campaign’s coffers.
The Internet has opened up countless possibilities for businesses and artists like Carolla. Podcasts owe their existence to the web and new media. However, emerging businesses that produce are always open to scrutiny and “trolling” from those looking to essentially steal a piece of the pie. Patent trolls are not an example of crony capitalists that need to be stopped with new laws and regulations. They are prime examples of people taking advantage of loose laws as well as a government rewarding patents that should never exist in the first place. They are companies and people that shouldn’t exist in an American capitalist system.
Even President Barack Obama has expressed concern over the current patent laws. In February 2013, Obama expressed the sentiment that patent law reform was only about halfway to where it needed to be for patent trolls not to exist.
“We’re gonna circle the wagons, band together and come out throwing punches,” says Carolla.