Jeff Roberts has the story of how a patent troll named Mobile Transformation LLC has sued Buzzfeed for patent infringement, claiming that its patent (6,351,736) covers the fact that Buzzfeed has both an embedded video and a static ad on certain pages. From the lawsuit:
More specifically, and by way of non-limiting example, the www.buzzfeed.com website uses an embedded flash player to present a first data type of a video file of “Boris v Romney” along with the presentation of advertising data of a second type that includes a static image advertisement for “Sour Patch Kids,” for example.
For purposes of Claim 64, when a web browser of a client device displays the Defendant Website, the web server that serves the Defendant Website downloads both the video file (first data type) and the static image advertisement (second data type). The web server that serves the Defendant Website then executes executable code created by Defendant’s content authors/website administrators. The executable code includes both the first and second commands for the presentation of the first and second data types, respectively. The executable code couples the presentation of the first and second data types. That is, because the first and second data types are linked together via executable code, the presentation of the first data type causes the presentation of the second data type, automatically. The web server that serves the Defendant Website presents the first data type to the web browser of the client device. Namely, video file of “Boris v Romney” is presented along with the static image advertisement for “Sour Patch Kids.” Thus, the presentation of the video file causes the presentation of the static image advertisement, though not necessarily always in that order.
Assuming that Buzzfeed hasn’t changed its post, the description in the lawsuit appears to be in error. It claims that the web server downloads both the video and the advertisement. But, the video is an embed from YouTube and the advertising on the page is served from DoubleClick. In other words, the “Defendant Website” downloads neither of the items in question, contrary to the lawsuit’s claims.
But, more to the point, the claims in the lawsuit seem ridiculous even if both were served by Buzzfeed. Having a static ad appear next to a video is not what this patent was intended to cover. Even the patent itself describes a system of playing a video advertisement next to a music file — a completely different situation and purpose. Besides, while embedding videos certainly came out well after this patent came along, the idea of ads running next to videos is hardly new or innovative. The problem here seems to be that the patent examiners, Eric W. Stamber and Mussie Tesfamariam, let a ridiculously broad claim through that the company is now using to file lawsuits over something crazy obvious (having both videos and ads on the same page) that it contributed nothing to.
Buzzfeed is hardly the only lawsuit that Mobile Technologies LLC has filed either. The company has been a busy little bee. The sites it’s sued include Wetpaint, Publishers Clearing House, Glam Media, Evolve, BabyCenter, Hollywood.com, DailyMotion, ProjectPlaylist, Justin TV and Radar Online, among many others. Oddly, I see that one of the inventors listed on the patent is Lior Cohen, which is the name of Warner Music’s CEO. I’m going to assume that this is not the same Lior Cohen, however. The patent was originally held by Adware LI Inc., and was then assigned to Everad, who later assigned it to EIP Company LLC. There isn’t an official assignment to Mobile Technologies LLC in the USPTO database, but that doesn’t mean anything. It could not yet be recorded or there may be shell companies involved or a licensing deal or who knows what. Either way, it’s yet another example of a mysterious patent holder with a broad patent using it against something completely different than what the patent is supposed to be about, and going after a ton of companies in the process.