New Jersey residents face a number of advertisements when they scroll the internet or even use their mobile phones. Two of the companies involved in creating the technology targeting ads to viewers’ interests have been engaged in an intellectual property dispute over their software. Free Stream Media, otherwise known as Samba, patented a system that allows the company to send advertisements to mobile phones based on the owners’ television viewing options. The company can charge advertisers for its ability to target advertisements based on customers’ viewing choices.
The company sued another firm, Alphonso, which also allows companies to target ads to mobile customers based on their television choices. Unlike Samba, however, Alphonso does not maintain its own server detecting television choices and matching relevant ads to customers’ interests. Instead, this company partnered with a TV manufacturer, Vizio, to buy customer data and sell advertising based on the information. However, Samba said that even though the system appeared to be different, Alphonso was simply contracting the patented TV communication system to Vizio.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California disagreed with Samba’s assertions, however. The judge in the case said that there was no proof Vizio only collected the data due to Alphonso’s request. It said that Vizio was not under Alphonso’s control when collecting customer data, and so the companies’ activity did not infringe on the Samba patent. While Alphonso also highlighted other differences with Samba’s system, the court found those arguments less compelling than the company’s alternate business model.
As technology advances, intellectual property is particularly important to businesses seeking to expand. An intellectual property attorney can help companies to protect their unique technologies through patents, copyrights and trademarks as well as upholding those rights in case of infringement.