DoubleClick Sues Pair Over Patent Issue

The battle for control over technology that makes online advertising possible has entered the courtroom.
DoubleClick, New York, the nation’s top Internet 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 in Norfolk, Va., DoubleClick’s claim cites a Sept. 7, 1999, patent 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 the case. DoubleClick CEO Kevin O’Connor did not return phone calls.
In a statement, Sabela said the suit is without basis and the agency will “fight to vindicate [our] good name and reputation.”
In a counterclaim, L90 called DoubleClick’s patent “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, a research analyst at Aberdeen Group, Boston, about the lawsuit. “Defending these kinds of patents is a big challenge.”
To many observers, the case is more about how the arena is being carved up, with DoubleClick trying to protect its dominance against a growing group of competitors. The stakes for shops and clients are huge, since each online media buy is executed through much-in-demand server technology.
“It’s a crowded field, and some advertisers are hedging their bets between different ad server [companies] and experimenting with new technology,” said one media executive.
Jupiter Communications, a New York research company, predicts online ad spending will total $11.5 billion by 2003.