L90, 24/7 Media Unit Separately Sue DoubleClick

It’s the new trend; when advertising giant DoubleClick Inc. sues your company alleging patent infringement, just sue back.

That’s the tack rival L90 took this week, following the lead of 24/7 Media (NASDAQ:TFSM). 24/7 Media filed suit against DoubleClick (NASDAQ:DCLK) March 5, alleging that DoubleClick infringed on 24/7 Media’s ad serving patent, then followed up on Thursday with another suit by its subsidiary, Sabela Media. DoubleClick had filed suit against Sabela back in December.

All of this legal business stems from disputes over whose online ad serving patent reigns supreme.

The way these suits are resolved will likely impact how patent disputes among Internet companies are handled in the future. The U.S. Patent Office has come under fire lately, with critics charging that the office is granting patents without understanding the underlying technology, and granting patents for technologies and methods already in common usage.

The L90 suit, filed in Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that DoubleClick fraudulently obtained the patent for its ad serving system.

“There were a number of companies serving ads before DoubleClick filed their patent application,” said John Bohnan, president and chief executive officer of L90.

“We still feel extremely confident that these prior art examples invalidate their patent. Moreover, as we set forth in our lawsuit, we believe that DoubleClick has intentionally and willfully engaged in unfair business practices, and as a result we will be seeking damages well into nine figures.”

Not surprisingly, DoubleClick intends to fight the lawsuits.

“L90’s counterclaims are desperate, baseless and clearly retaliatory,” said Elizabeth Wang, vice president and general counsel, DoubleClick.

“This suit is clearly in response to our suit against L90 for infringement of our patent.”

The L90 lawsuit alleges unfair business practices, including DoubleClick’s obtaining of its patent — number 5,948,061 — for a “method for delivery, targeting and measuring advertising over networks.”

The suit filed Thursday by 24/7 Media subsidiary Sabela Media follows on L90’s coattails, alleging that DoubleClick violated federal antitrust laws by failing to give the United States Patent Office important information when it applied for its patent. And Sabela further says that DoubleClick’s suit against it was an anti-competitive move.

“We expect to prove that DoubleClick withheld critical information from the United States Patent Office, knew that its patent was invalid at the time it brought suit against Sabela, and used its patent in an anti-competitive manner, to the detriment of competition on the Internet,” said James Green, co-founder of Sabela Media and president of technology solutions for 24/7 Media.

L90 wants a judge to declare that DoubleClick’s patent is invalid and unenforceable. And it wants the Court to enjoin DoubleClick from its allegedly unlawful conduct, and award L90 monetary and punitive damages.

24/7 Media is asking the Court to bar DoubleClick from further anti-competitive conduct, and is also seeking monetary damages, including punitive damages.

DoubleClick’s suit against L90, filed in November 1999, alleges the company is infringing, inducing and contributing to the infringement of its patent through third parties. Its suit against Sabela Media, filed in December, covers similar legal territory.

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