Ad Server Contests Others for Patent
LOS ANGELES--The battle for control of the technology that makes online advertising possible has entered the courtroom.
DoubleClick, New York, the nation's top ad server, has filed a patent-infringement civil lawsuit against competitors L90, Santa Monica, Calif., and Sabela Media, Culver City, Calif.
Filed Nov. 12 in U.S. District Court, Norfolk, Va., DoubleClick's claim mentions its Sept. 7,
1999 U.S. Patent No. 5,948,061 for the "method of delivery, targeting and measuring advertising over networks" as grounds for the suit. It seeks lost profits and triple any damages the court determines.
A DoubleClick representative confirmed the legal action but refused to comment on any other aspect of the case. DoubleClick CEO Kevin O'Connor did not return phone calls.
In a statement, Sabela said the suit has no basis and it will "defend ourselves and fight to vindicate [our] good name and reputation."
L90's counterclaim requests moving to California, stating the server's patent is "vague, indefinite and does not distinctly claim the subject matter which [DoubleClick] regarded as [its] invention."
"It's probably more of a PR thing," said Kent Allen, research analyst at Aberdeen Group, Boston, on the lawsuit. "Defending these kinds of patents is a big challenge."
To most observers, the case is less about protecting a patent and more on vying to carve up cyber-ad space, with DoubleClick trying to expand its dominance against a growing host of competitors. The stakes for shops and clients are huge, since each online ad-media buy is executed through much-in-demand server technology.
Bob Coen, svp/director of forecasting at Universal McCann, predicts Net ad spending will sur-
pass $3.2 billion in 2000. Jupiter Communications, a New York research company specializing in e-commerce, predicts online advertising will total $11.5 billion by 2003.
"They really are jockeying for that franchise position to become the industry standard for ad-server technology," said one media executive, requesting anonymity. "It's a crowded field, and some advertisers are hedging their bets between different ad server [companies] and experimenting with new technology.