Hothand Inc. has been awarded a broad patent, covering not just location services but also mobile advertising. It’s a patent that could affect mobile platforms widely, and not just for ad networks such as Google’s AdMob or the one Apple is rumored to be revealing soon, possibly today.
According to a Mobile Commerce Daily article that quotes a lawyer close to the patent’s development, the patent’s claims are broad. In essence, it covers how to target ads to consumers that have an interest in a particular advertiser, as well as bringing those consumers to the advertiser’s place of business. As the article points out, the potential impact is wide, affecting carriers, ad networks, mobile coupon providers, directories and more. Based on this broadness of coverage, the patent potentially affects development studios, too, namely those whose apps have location-sharing features related to merchants. E.g., Foursquare and MyTown. Here is a portion of the patent’s abstract:
“The method involves receiving, from a database over a communication network, information for one or more merchants associated with the mobile device user information for the geographic location and the merchant type, and presenting the associated merchant information on the mobile device. The associated merchant information can include a merchant name, address and phone number, a merchant advertisement, merchant mobile coupons, or a merchant product or service offering to users of the shopping service.“
Right now, the mobile platform in general is enjoying immense change, with a growth in consumer use, hot apps in social networking and location sharing, in-app advertising within mobile games, and more. Mobile advertising is in a state of change, with the FTC ready to breathe down Google’s neck on the purchase of AdMob, and Apple will reveal today what they’ll do with their recent purchase of Quattro Wireless. If the broadly-worded Hothand patent is leveraged on everyone possible, big players such as Google and Apple can probably afford the necessary licensing fees. Smaller players such as startup geo-location apps developers just might not have the funds to pony up. It’ll be interesting, of course, to see how the Hothand patent is in fact leveraged. Companies will either have to come up with innovative solutions in the above mentioned areas to avoid the patent’s fees, fight in court, or pay up.