RealTime IT News

Global Network Gunning for Patent Revenues

Niche ad serving play Global Networks is seeking to turn its patents into revenue -- which could pose a problem for the advertisers, publishers and servers that it expects to cough up that revenue.

Filed in August 2000, the New York-based firm's patent, No. 6,401,075, "Methods of placing, purchasing and monitoring Internet advertising," protects Global Network's process for uploading ad creative, deploying that ad to a network of newspaper Web sites, and automatically configuring the ad so that it meets each publisher's or ad unit's specifications.

Since receiving approval from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in June, Global Network has been busily contacting publishers, agencies, advertisers and ad servers in a bid to collect on the patent, which theoretically could apply to any party involved in buying, sending or selling ads that run on more than one newspaper Web site.

Initially, the firm bought ad space in the Wall Street Journal, announcing its patent. Next, it delivered an e-mail campaign to about 1,000 publishers using technology that it believes to be in violation of the patent. Additionally, Global Network said it's in the process of contacting about 300 agencies, 200 national advertisers, and the top online ad servers.

After it feels it's given the industry ample notice, the company plans to begin actually sending invoices to companies that it believes are infringing -- a move that is expected to happen "either this month or next," said Jim Mason, Global Network's president.

Mason said the company was still working on exactly how much to charge, though fees are likely to include a bill for both an annual license and volume of use.

"Our goal is to sign up some of the bigger organizations early on," he said. "We've reached a verbal agreement with one major newspaper company and one major server, and an agency that understands the significance of it."

He declined to disclose names. Additionally, internetnews.com spoke to several Web publishers who said they had been notified of the patent, but declined to specify whether they had officially begin discussions with Global Networks about licensing.

At least one ad server confirmed that it's in talks with Global Network.

"We're reviewing what the patent means for us, and we'll probably wind up striking some kind of deal in the near future," said Paul Benjou, director of client services for ValueClick's MediaPlex unit. "It's just come to fruition. We don't know what the impact will be, but certainly everyone wants to be in compliance with any patents or laws."

At any rate, the move by Global Network continues the patent-based licensing and litigation that for years has typified the contentious rivalry among Internet ad servers.

In 1999, DoubleClick sued smaller rivals L90 -- now MaxWorldwide -- and Sabela Media, for infringing on its own patent, No. 5,948,061, "Method for delivery, targeting and measuring advertising over networks." In early 2000, 24/7 Media, which had since acquired Sabela and received its own patent -- No. 6,026,368, "Method for providing content and advertising information to a targeted set of viewers" -- and sued DoubleClick.

All of the players reached a mutual settlement later that year, financial terms of which are confidential, though the firms granted each other certain rights with respect to the patents. 24/7 Media since sold Sabela to DoubleClick and acquired Real Media, forming 24/7 Real Media , while DoubleClick this year sold its media practice to L90 just months after acquired L90's ad serving unit.

In February, 24/7 Real Media sued ValueClick for infringing its patent. The company settled with Advertising.com, which it had also accused of violating its patent.