Software developer VoloMedia has been awarded a U.S. patent that the company says covers the basic elements of podcasting, including subscribing to a podcast, automatically downloading or deleting podcast files, and synchronizing those files to a portable media device.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) awarded patent number 7,568,213, "Method for providing episodic media content," to VoloMedia on Tuesday.
The company applied for the patent in 2003, before podcasting became commonplace, said founder Murgesh Navar in a posting to VoloMedia's blog on Thursday.
"As it takes many years to obtain a patent, it is also quite typical for the methods described by the patent to have become relatively commonplace by the time the patent issues. VoloMedia's situation is no exception," he wrote.
Of the dozen patents the company has applied for since 2003, this is the first to be issued, according to Navar.
Members of the Association for Downloadable Media (ADM), an industry group providing advertising and audience measurement standards for episodic and downloadable media, reacted skeptically to the award of the patent.
"As an ADM member I think this patent is bunk. It should never have been issued. It's too vague. It doesn't mention Audio, Video, or RSS. It could apply to anything -- podcasting, the DVR (digital video recorder) from my cable company, even Twitter and Facebook," wrote one of them, Eric Susch, in a comment on the ADM's blog.
While most podcasting systems use the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) protocol to signal the availability of new episodes, VoloMedia's patent is much broader and covers other means of distributing episodic content, Navar said.
Streaming media Web sites such as Hulu are likely to depend on VoloMedia's patent in the future, Navar wrote, as "There will come a day when all the content on Hulu is available as an episodic download."
VoloMedia is not a patent troll, and has real technology in the field of its patent, according to Navar. The company developed and sells a plug-in for Apple's iTunes software that allows podcast publishers to analyze what kind of people listen to their shows, drawing on information from Google Analytics to break down audience numbers by location or software platform.
Navar said he wants to "work collaboratively with key participants in the industry," and suggested that the company will use its patent to make the market for episodic media download technology more seamless, more standardized, and more interconnected.