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Augme, NeoMedia move to protect mobile patents in suits against Millennial, SpyderLynk

In a sign of just how big the potential may be to make money from mobile marketing, patent infringement lawsuits keep coming from companies such as Augme Technologies and NeoMedia who are looking to protect intellectual property they feel gives them a unique edge. 

In its latest lawsuit, Augme Technologies alleges that Millennial Media infringed several of its patents related to targeting content to mobile users in a Web browser. Additionally, NeoMedia Technologies is claiming that SpyderLynk infringed its mobile bar code resolution technology in a suit filed yesterday.

?Targeting content is of course the Holy Grail,? said Jonathan Ezor , assistant professor of law at Touro Law Center, Central Islip, NY, and counsel to Olshan, New York. ?That is what differentiates online advertising from its offline equivalent.

?The idea that an ad can be made specific to a user based on their behavior or interests, this is the whole reason for the dominance of Google,? he said.

?When Microsoft pays $1.06 billion to own or license a patent portfolio from an online company, it is definitely a sign that ownership patent control is seen as a major requirement by companies.?

Neither Augme nor Millennial Media responded to requests for comment.

Patent protection programs
Owning and licensing mobile-related patents have become an important strategy for many companies.

For example, Microsoft reportedly makes significantly more from licensing patents to Android handset manufacturers than from its own Windows Phone.

Yesterday, in a move to further boost its patent portfolio, Microsoft agreed to pay AOL $1.06 billion to purchase or license patents from the online company.

Augme similarly sees an important business opportunity in its patents, with the company?s CEO Paul Arena saying that the company believes its patent portfolio represents one of the company?s most valuable assets and one which it plans to protect.

Per Mr. Ezor, some of the patents which Augme alleges have been infringed in the Millennial suit are fairly recent and were issued in November 2011, suggesting that suits against additional companies are possible. Augme initially filed for the patents back in 2007.

?It may be that since the patents were recently issued, it took this long to get the pieces in order,? Mr. Ezor said. ?If that is the case, there may well be a series of these lawsuits as the papers get drawn up and filed.?

Augme claims that Millennial Media infringed three of its patents and asks that the company be prevented from using or selling products or services that are used in an electronic or computer network system for targeting content via a Web browser.

Please click here and here to read the complaints filed by Augme.

Augme filed a suit against Velti that makes similar claims in March.

NeoMedia similarly said it has invested a significant amount of resources into its patents and will fight hard to defend its portfolio. The company has previously successfully negotiated license agreements with other mobile companies.

Please click here to read the NeoMedia complaint.

Legal scrutiny
The suit against Millennial follows closely on the heels of Millennial Media?s recent successful initial public offering, when it raised $132.6 million.

?This is often the case that companies that are more successful are targeted,? Mr. Ezor said.

?After an IPO, a company is more likely to have cash to win,? he said. ?There may also be disclosures in the IPO documents that could be fodder for a lawsuit.?

However, what will not be clear until the legal proceedings get underway is how unique these particular patents are and how well they will stand up under legal scrutiny.

?The fact that these have been filed says nothing about the ultimate success of the suit,? Mr. Ezor said.