LowerMyBills.com Claims Win in Ad Copyright Suit

Experian Interactive’s LowerMyBills.com says it’s won a $200,000 judgment in a copyright infringement lawsuit against NexTag. LowerMyBills.com, consistently one of the most prolific advertisers on the Web, had accused the comparison shopping site of copying its online advertising.

“Companies that are basically copycat guys are taking our advertising and trying to duplicate it so they can benefit from all of the investments that we’ve made in the LowerMyBills brand and creative,” Matt Coffin, president and founder of LowerMyBills.com told ClickZ.

Neither NexTag nor its attorneys responded to requests for comment on the judgment.

It’s not clear whether the judge in the case, Dale S. Fischer, found against NexTag or what the rationale for the judgment was. Legal paperwork hasn’t yet been made available for the case, originally filed in December 2004 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

One ad in question, known as the “50 State Grapes” ad, showed an animated bunch of purple grapes with text reading “Click Your State & Save $1000s!”. Each grape contains text with the abbreviation of one of the 50 states. Viewers could click on the text to find out about mortgage rates on LowerMyBills.com. The company says NexTag ran a substantially similar ad which appeared on AOL, as did the original ad.

Coffin said copyright issues are particularly sticky in Internet advertising because it’s so easy for people to copy images and text. The company says it’s in the process of beginning legal action against a number of other alleged ad copycats.

“We are going to step up our efforts at suing companies,” said Coffin. “We will go after people corporately and personally who are copying our advertising.”

LowerMyBills.com has long one been one of the largest advertisers on the Internet. In November 2005, it spent $4.7 million for online advertising, according to TNS Media Intelligence, making it the 13th biggest spender that month. The company was acquired by Experian last year for $380 million.

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