Court Lifts Restraining Order Against Juno

Juno Online Services Inc. won a victory against arch-rival NetZero Inc. in federal court Thursday, as a judge lifted a restraining order that kept the NY-based ISP from displaying third-party ads on its Juno Guide floating ad banner.

NetZero filed a lawsuit against Juno in late December, charging the company with patent infringement over a technology that enables an Internet service provider to display advertisements or messages through a window that is separate from the browser. NetZero claimed it was the exclusive licensee of the patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,157,946. Juno promptly responded with a counter-suit, alleging that it was in fact NetZero that was infringing on its patented ad-banner technology.

But in January the cards seemed to be falling NetZero’s way when Judge Stephen V. Wilson of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles granted its motion for a temporary restraining order which prevented Juno from using its ad banner technology. The order kept Juno from using the technology to serve ads through most of the first quarter.

But on Thursday, Judge Wilson not only refused NetZero’s request for a preliminary injunction to broaden and extend the restraining order, he lifted it entirely.

The court determined that NetZero’s patent claims are vulnerable to attack on grounds of invalidity and non-infringement when a full trial is conducted later this year.

“By denying NetZero’s request for a preliminary injunction, the court sends an important signal that it has doubts that the ‘946’ patent will stand up at trial,” said Richard Buchband, senior vice president and general counsel of Juno. “We’re encouraged by today’s ruling and believe that it is a good barometer of Juno’s chances for prevailing at trial.”

NetZero declined to comment.

Meanwhile, during the course of the restraining order, Juno President and Chief Executive Officer Charles Ardai maintained that the company’s inability to serve ads was not hurting the company because the majority of its revenue was from billable subscribers.

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