NetZero Sues Juno for Patent Infringement

NetZero Inc., the Westlake Village, Calif.-based Internet service provider, has filed a lawsuit against its Silicon Alley-based rival Juno Online Services Inc. for patent infringement.

The suit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, centers around the technology that enables an Internet service provider to display advertisements or messages through a window that is separate from the browser. NetZero claims it is the exclusive licensee of the patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,157,946.

The case underscores the animosity the two competitors likely feel toward one another. Back in June, it was Juno that served as the plaintiff seeking damages and an injunction against NetZero as well as Qualcomm for allegedly infringing on a patent to display ads to an Internet user that is offline. The technology, developed by Juno, allowed the ISP to expand revenue while minimizing telecommunication costs.

In a brief telephone interview, Juno President and Chief Executive Charles Ardai told that he believe NetZero’s latest legal maneuvers were without merit.

“We do not believe we are infringing on claims of any patent they hold,” Ardai said. Juno has not yet reviewed the lawsuit and declined further comment.

In its statement issued Wednesday, NetZero said it employs the technology through a featured called “ZeroPort” — a persistent, on-screen window that serves as a navigational tool while displaying advertisements and customized messages the entire time a user is online. NetZero argues that Juno’s use of ad windows through a service branded “The Juno Guide” is “nearly identical” to the ad window described in the patent.

“We believe this patent applies to the ad-delivery process used by many of our competitors for both targeted and untargeted advertisements and will provide NetZero with a significant competitive edge in this environment,” NetZero Chairman and Chief Executive Mark R. Goldston said. “We intend to judiciously protect our rights granted by this patent.”

NetZero declined to provide additional details beyond the press statement.

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