Radio broadcasters are preparing for a legal battle over automation technology that has become the backbone of on-air operations at many U.S. stations.
Mission Abstract Data LLC, doing business as DigiMedia, has filed a complaint in United States District Court for the District of Delaware alleging patent infringement by various broadcast groups including CBS Radio, Beasley Broadcasting, Cox Radio, Greater Media, Cumulus, Townsquare Media and Entercom. In all, nearly 900 radio stations are directly involved.
The plaintiff claims it holds patents for using “an all-digital, computer hard drive-based system for music storage and playback for broadcast.” It is asking for a jury trial to determine damages, plus interest, for infringement of two United States patents it holds. The broadcasters have until this coming Monday, May 2, to reply to the lawsuit.
The case is moving forward despite the contention of some in the industry that automation systems were already well established in the market when the first patent involved was applied for in 1994 and issued in 1997.
Radio World confirmed that at least some broadcasters have been contacted by parties representing Mission Abstract Data asking them to sign licensing agreements. Though the complaint goes after broadcasters, rather than manufacturers, suppliers are involved. Several sources confirmed that at least one telephone conference call between some defendants and automation vendors reviewing a possible defense strategy has taken place.
Based on comments to RW, the patent question was the topic of intense, quiet back-of-the-booth conversation among automation companies at the NAB show in April.