Global communications giant WPP has fired off what appears to be a preemptive salvo against TRA Global, a company in which it invested, in a battle over proprietary methods of measuring buying habits of TV audiences.
WPP subsidiary, Kantar Media Audiences, and another TRA investor, Cavendish Square Holdings, filed suit against New York-based TRA on Wednesday, asking a federal judge to determine if the U.K. company is infringing on TRA's patent for studying consumer behaviors.
The suit comes in response to letters sent by TRA to Cavendish, claiming that Kantar’s Rapid-view Retail product is a direct rip-off.
"We have not been served any papers so it is difficult to respond. But if it is true, then we are disappointed that WPP as a TRA investor, board member, vendor, customer decided to launch a competing product and now would resort to this tactic,” TRA said in a statement.
Kantar declined to comment beyond what is alleged in the lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Federal Court.
TRA claims to match TV viewing data with purchasing data from a sample of 370,000 households across America to gauge viewer habits.
Rapid-view, which was launched in March, taps into 100,000 DirecTV viewer habits coupled with a database of 231 million shoppers to help advertisers pinpoint their audience.
Kantar acknowledged in court papers that TRA owns the patent entitled “Analyzing Return on Investment of Advertising Campaigns by Matching Multiple Data Sources” but denies that its product is a misappropriation.
TRA ratcheted up the drama when it excluded Cavendish’s board member from a meeting about the dispute, according to the suit, and promised to exclude her from further meetings in violation of a investor agreement.
WPP, which reports a $15 billion annual income, also owns the Grey Group, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, Young & Rubicam Brands, and JWT.