Adam Carolla Settles With Podcasting Patent Troll: Even With A Strong Case And $500k In The Bank, It's Too Expensive To Fight
from the too-bad dept
We were at least somewhat happy that Carolla was still fighting, noting that by continuing the case and pushing the counterclaims, hopefully he could invalidate the patent in court. However, a few weeks have gone by and Carolla has settled the case. Given that Personal Audio had already said it offered to dismiss the case for no money, it's unlikely that Carolla paid anything here, and you can never really fault someone for settling a lawsuit, which is going to be costly and time consuming when there's an easy out. Still, as the folks at EFF note, this is a lost opportunity to both kill off that patent and to get attorneys' fees out of Personal Audio:
Also, somewhat unfortunately, Carolla has agreed to a gag order, promising not to talk about any of this until the end of September. While that's not too far off, the EFF notes that between now and then, Personal Audio is using that patent against a number of TV companies in a case set to go to trial in September.
By settling now, Carolla gives up the chance to make Personal Audio pay his fees. If a defendant wins on the merits it can get fees in extraordinary cases. Winning fees would be a huge deterrent to future litigation from Personal Audio. Although the Supreme Court recently made it somewhat easier for victorious defendants to get fees, it is still a challenge. Moreover, the judge has a lot of discretion and this case was in the Eastern District of Texas, a forum generally considered quite friendly to trolls. Carolla’s team likely made the calculation that fees would be a long shot.
Even more important, Carolla also loses the opportunity to invalidate the patent. If the case had gone to trial, he would have argued that the patent was invalid because the so-called invention was described or made obvious by other people’s work before Personal Audio filed its patent. Carolla would have been able to use more prior art at trial than EFF (challenges at the Patent Office are limited to printed publications). As Charles Duan at Public Knowledge recently explained, if Carolla had won on the invalidity issue, he would have defeated Personal Audio for all podcasters. A troll can’t sue with patent claims that have been invalidated by a court.
Furthermore, the EFF notes that this situation shows just how ridiculous the patent troll situation is. When you have a very strong case, and $500,000 given to you via crowdfunding specifically to kill this patent troll... and most experts agreed it still wasn't nearly enough, which is why settling is the right move:
The most disappointing aspect of today’s settlement is how unsurprising it is. Almost every defendant, no matter how strong their case, ends up settling with the patent troll. Litigating patent cases is extraordinarily expensive. Carolla raised almost half a million dollars and that still would not have been enough to fund a defense through trial.Once again, it's time to fix the patent system to stop bogus trolling like this.
Trolls know this and use the cost of defense to extort settlements. In the rare case where someone shows a willingness to fights to the end, the troll will often save its patent at the last moment with a walk-away deal. This is likely what happened in Carolla’s case.