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Tech Patents in Automation Suit to be Reexamined

Action could significantly change face of far-reaching law suit

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will reexamine two patents at the center of a legal dispute between radio broadcasters and a company claiming to own key automation technology.

Broadcast Electronics — which makes AudioVault products and is not a defendant in the patent infringement suit — asked for the review and received word this week that the USPTO has granted the request. A favorable finding could render the lawsuit moot.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the radio broadcasters involved in the litigation have requested a stay from the judge overseeing the case in U. S. District Court for the District of Delaware pending the patent review.

Mission Abstract Data, doing business as DigiMedia, claims it holds several patents for an all-digital, hard drive-based system able to store songs for music storage and playback for broadcast. Earlier this year it sued CBS Radio, Townsquare Media, Beasley Broadcasting, Cox Radio, Greater Media and Cumulus Media, which own approximately 900 stations in total, for patent infringement. Townsquare has since been dropped from the suit.

Bill Ragland, a patent attorney with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, which is not involved in the suit, said he believes it is “highly possible” the judge in the case will grant the broadcasters’ request for a stay.

A reexamination typically takes 2.5 years to determine patentability, Ragland said.

Broadcasters and radio automation vendors claim radio automation systems were in the marketplace before the patents were applied for by inventor Robert Goldman. Any “prior art” that existed before applications for the technology were submitted in 1994 would support the defense’s position that the technology was not patentable at the time.

— Randy Stine