24/7 Media Slaps ValueClick with Suit

New York-based ad network and technology firm 24/7 Real Media on Wednesday filed a patent infringement suit against rival ValueClick, reprising the series of quarrels among the online ad servers and networks.

The suit alleges that Westlake Village, Calif.-based ValueClick’s ad delivery system infringes on the patent that 24/7 Real Media holds for its system. ValueClick subsidiary Mediaplex — acquired last year — is also named in the suit.

The suit stems from 24/7 Real Media’s — then known as 24/7 Media — February 1995 filing for patent protection for an “on-line interactive system for providing content and information to a targeted set of viewers.” Exactly five years later, the firm received U.S. Patent No. 6,026,368.

“The patent that we’re now asserting is … in our view, the ‘granddaddy’ patent in the targeted ad serving area,” said Bob Gunther, Jr., 24/7 Real Media’s attorney and a partner at the New York office of Latham & Watkins. “Companies like ValueClick and Mediaplex that are doing sophisticated targeting and ad serving need a license under this patent.”

24/7 Real Media had been hoping to secure a licensing arrangement with ValueClick, although negotiations to that end ultimately fell through, Gunther said.

“Our view is that under fair terms, we’re willing to grant licenses, but the fact of the matter is we had a back and forth with them, and it didn’t go anywhere,” he said. “As a result of that, we were left with no choice but to enforce it by filing a lawsuit.”

ValueClick representatives were unavailable for comment at press time.

The suit against ValueClick, in which the sector’s largest player, DoubleClick, has a 15 percent stake, effectively picks up where a series of earlier lawsuits among the ad serving sector’s biggest players left off.

In November 1999, DoubleClick sued smaller rival L90 for allegedly infringing on its patent, No. 5,948,061, which it had received a month earlier. DoubleClick originally filed for patent protection of its “method for delivery, targeting and measuring advertising over networks” in October 1996.

A month after filing charges against L90, DoubleClick also brought Australian ad server Sabela Media to court on the same grounds.

One month later, 24/7 Media joined the fray, acquiring the Aussie ad company and, in March, filing its own patent suit against DoubleClick. Shortly thereafter, L90 and Sabela also sued DoubleClick, asking that a federal judge render the larger firm’s patent “invalid and unenforceable.”

All the lawsuits were settled under confidential terms in November 2000. As part of the settlement, the companies’ suits cannot be re-filed with the same claims.

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