March 23, 2011, 2:50 PM

Nielsen and comScore sue each other over patent abuse

Both web traffic measurement firms ask for a trial and damages.

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Two of the biggest providers of web site traffic information to the online retailing industry are suing each other over patents.

On March 15 The Nielsen Co. sued comScore Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia over alleged infringement of six patents Nielsen says it owns for the collection, measurement and monitoring of Internet data, including web site traffic. On March 22 comScore filed a countersuit against Nielsen, claiming Nielsen infringed on similar patents comScore says it owns for measuring Internet data and identifying user’s demographic information and web usage patterns.

The comScore suit was also filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virgina. No hearing date for either suit has been scheduled. In its lawsuit against comScore, Nielsen claims comScore is using its patents wrongly in a number of comScore products such as Media Metrix, which companies use to track and measure online display advertising.

In its suit, Nielsen asks for a cease and desist order and unspecified monetary damages. “Nielsen has made substantial investments over many years in its intellectual property,” says a Nielsen spokeswoman. “While we support vigorous competition in the marketplace, that competition must be fair and respect intellectual property rights. Nielsen does not take such matters lightly and only after thorough analysis and consideration did we file this action.  We look forward to a fair and appropriate resolution.”

In its suit against Nielsen, comScore also asks for a jury trial, unspecified monetary damages and a cease and desist order. “ComScore has previously filed and been issued patents of its own, and comScore works diligently to conduct itself in a manner that is respectful of others’ intellectual property rights,” the company says in a new regulatory filing. “ComScore intends to vigorously protect its intellectual property and defend itself.”

Unlike other recent e-commerce patent infringement suits, which include issues related to software license agreements and patents obtained over time by various third parties, the comScore and Nielsen complaints represent a more classic patent dispute over who owns the technology, says Peter Brann, a partner with Lewiston, MD-based law firm Brann & Isaacson, who defends online retailers in patent dispute litigation. “This is more of a traditional patent suit where two companies square off over ‘I own this and you don’t,’” says Brann. “In this case they aren’t fighting lots of other people using a patent, they are fighting each other.”

The outcome of the case will also likely be decided in a shorter period of time than other types of patent infringement litigation, says Brann. “Both sides have put their case on a rocket docket,” he says.



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