That Whole Watch An Ad To Get Content Thing? Patented... And The Patent Holder Has Been Suing

from the watch-out dept

So we were just talking about some new company called Free All Music, which has a plan to let people download free mp3s if they agree to watch a video ad first. I have my doubts about how well it would work... but apparently the company may also need to watch out for another issue: a bogus patent. You see, there's some company called Ultramercial, who not only holds a US patent 7,346,545 on the concept of distributing content where the user can get it for free after watching an ad, but Ultramercial recently went legal. Just a few days ago, it sued Hulu, YouTube and WildTangent for infringement over that very patent. Seriously, USPTO? A patent on watching an ad before getting free content? This is why patent examiners get such a bad rap.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Reverend Dak (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 12:05pm

    Um, isn't OTA TV and Radio based on this model?

     

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  2.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 12:08pm

    ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH!

    I'm close to DC. Give me names and a photo and I'll go and shame these morons during their lunch hour.

    Seriously, the "Moron in a Hurry" test was supposed to be about debunking patent claims. Not hiring patent examiners.

     

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  3.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 12:14pm

    Re: ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH!

    "Seriously, the "Moron in a Hurry" test was supposed to be about debunking patent claims. Not hiring patent examiners."

    Classic.

    Govt.: Hey! That idiot looks like he's off to someplace important! Think he needs a job?

     

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  4.  
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    imbrucy (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 12:25pm

    Re:

    Yes but this is "on the internet"

     

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  5.  
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    lavi d (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 12:34pm

    Re: Re: ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH!

    the "Moron in a Hurry" test was supposed to be about debunking patent claims.

    I thought it was a test for trademark infringement?

     

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  6.  
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    lavi d (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Re:

    Patent Applicant: "I want to patent carbonated sweetened water"

    Patent Examiner: "That's been done"

    PA: "Ah, but I want to do it on the internet !"

    PE: "Approved!"

     

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  7.  
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    Robert Ring (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 12:36pm

    Wouldn't this be a prime example of obviousness?

     

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  8.  
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    Tony E (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 12:40pm

    Sue the USPTO

    Seems like all these companies that are getting sued over these ridiculous patents should band together and sue the USPTO for allowing these patents that essentially cause them to get sued.

    I know this sounds a little bit like conspiracy, but maybe this whole thing is a racket set up by the gov't. Maybe they are allowing all these ridiculous patents to go through so they can collect all the fees and taxes that go along with filing for a patent, lawsuits, etc.

    Just throwin it out there...

     

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  9.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 12:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH!

    "I thought it was a test for trademark infringement?"

    Well, yes. But if it wouldn't stand the test of putting up a shutter, it should come nowhere near being accepted as a fount of monies for the next half century.

     

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  10.  
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    Matt (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Sue the USPTO

    They get the money for the application. They can deny it at the end and still get the money.

    They are overworked, underpaid, and headed for a revolving door into a private patent practice (in which they will represent stupid patent applications before the PTO). There are few PTO "lifers".

    The real problem is not the motivation or even the workload of the PTO. It is its existence. Patents are silly. Congress has experimented with them for long enough - it should feel free to abolish them now that they no longer do any real work.

     

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  11.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 12:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH!

    That should be 'putting up a shingle.' Putting up a shutter impresses nobody....

     

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  12.  
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    Matt (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 12:57pm

    Re:

    No. A _prime_ example of obviousness would be the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Welch's holds that patent, I think. But this is certainly obvious. It is also not novel: people have been trading content for eyes since the invention of fire.

    It has another, more fundamental problem. It is not a patentable "business method". In the US, those are required to have a tangible result. Your method of depositing chrome on plastic (by first electroplating with nickel) is patentable - the result of the method is a chrome-plated piece of plastic. Your method of adding a column of numbers by starting in the middle and going out to the sides probably isn't.

     

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  13.  
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    Al, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 1:09pm

    What a country

    I invented bitching on the internet and I hold a patent - I will sue you all. hahaha

     

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  14.  
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    Trails, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 1:15pm

    Re: ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH!

    You. Joke. Coffee. My keyboard. Dammit.

     

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  15.  
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    Mitch Featherston, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 1:17pm

    Salon.com

    I recall salon.com using this kind of ad platform so that you could read articles for free, years ago. This is way lame.

     

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  16.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH!

    I wonder how many keyboards have been lost due to Techdirt.

    Oh, I smell a class action lawsuit... No, never mind, someone just farted.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 1:30pm

    I tried the same service at least five years ago through Virgin Mobile. You could watch commercials, afterward answering specific questions, so you actually had to watch the ads, and then your Virgin Mobile prepaid cell phone would be credited with free minutes. I only did it a couple of times before realizing that it wasn't a good return on investment, considering what I made per hour at my job. It was better to buy prepaid minutes than work for them for free.

    I guess Virgin Mobil will be the next ones in line to be sued for patent infringement.

     

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  18.  
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    Bas (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Sue the USPTO

    I think there are more lucrative ways to make money.

     

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  19.  
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    AnonCow, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 3:42pm

    This is really a patent on receiving payment for a service before delivery of the service. I think the prior art on that would be the world's first hooker.

    "Price" can be any limited resource (money, time), so making me watch a commercial (paying with time) in order to gain access to content is really just a different form of payment. It is no different than charging a price in USD to watch the content.

    How this passed even a cursory review at the USPTO is unfathomable.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 4:54pm

    Uhm... so techdirt, are you in trouble? There are ads on techdirt and I get the content for free, so one might be able to argue that you are somehow violating the patent.

     

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  21.  
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    Glenn, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 5:12pm

    Obvious... and archaic...

    This is just another form of the barter system, which has been around, well, forever. You might as well patent the wheel... (and if your wheel is, say, some shade of grey and it's only made for white trucks, then the USPTO would probably grant you a patent).

     

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  22.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 6:20pm

    I think there should be a rule that if a patent is overturned, the examiner who approved it should be fired and pay a hefty fine for not doing his job right.

     

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  23.  
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    GregSJ (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 7:23pm

    I actually researched this patent as part of my summer internship after my 1L year. It is definitely proof the USPTO needs to work on its POSITA standard.

     

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  24.  
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    AW, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 10:58pm

    Okay...this is actually enough to get me to act on it. Seriously what legally can we do about this. I HATE most corporations because they break the public trust, but I HATE stifling honest companies trying to do something right even more. Hulu has done everything right and has gotten shafted at every turn. You don't mess with daddy's tv and get away with it. If you look further down cookies are actually cited as a patent 6182050. Really? Someone patented cookies? Anyone else notice that they use actual 3.5" disk graphics? Gah...let me know and I'll mail in my patent on a method of holographic advertisement. I'll hold on to it for a few years and it will be worth millions with zero actual work.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 11:26pm

    Re:

    "Okay...this is actually enough to get me to act on it. Seriously what legally can we do about this."

    Vote for Ron Paul, libertarians, and people from the pirate party. Or we can protest the government. Stand in front of the white house with signs all day and make some noise. Do what people did to get the do not call registry passed against the will of corporations. We have to organize a massive protest. Without a massive protest things that benefit the population as a whole don't typically get done.

     

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  26.  
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    another Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2009 @ 4:01am

    Re:

    too late.
    virgin has already sued ultramerical...

    Virgin Mobile USA (NYSE: VM) has sued Ultramercial over its Sugar Mama service, which allowed users to earn free voice minutes by watching commercials. Two weeks ago, we reported that a lawsuit was likely, but further details were unavailable at the time. The next day, Sprint announced it would buy the prepaid operator.

    Based on documents filed in the state of New York, we now know why the Sugar Mama service was shut down July 16.

    Virgin Mobile is claiming that Ultramercial, which ran the service on carrier’s behalf, had failed to pay Virgin at least $814,543 in payments for advertisements placed on the Sugar Mama site.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2009 @ 7:20am

    Re: Re:

    you sir, have no idea what you're talking about.

    the "useful, concrete, and tangible result" test of state street bank hasn't been the law on eligibility for over a year now. it's currently the "particular machine or transformation" test of diehr and subsequently bilski.

    as for obviousness, there are plenty of people who still think that taking something that happens all the time off the internet, and adding the internet, all of a sudden is not obvious. with the current developments in code, simply adding the internet to your business model should ALWAYS obvious.

     

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  28.  
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    Sailbad, Oct 11th, 2009 @ 10:55am

    Re: Salon.com

    It was actually this company, Ultramercial, that designed the format and ran the Salon ads. Before you get your knickers in a bunch read the patent. The application is clearly defined and offers viewers an "option" of watching an ad to access premium content that you may otherwise have to subscribe to.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2009 @ 9:49pm

    Salon Virgin Knikers

    I see two examples cited in these comments: Virgin Mobile and Salon.com. It seems that Ultramercai was behind both of these "free" offers. You all remembered those, and thought they were novel enough to remember (even if not worthwhile). Props to Ultramercial for thinking of this way ahead of its time.

    From the Virgin Mobil lawsuit observation it's clear that they're probably the underdog here; why shouldn't Hulu pay them for the use of the model that they pioneered? I know that if I discovered something way back in 2000 or whenever Ultramercial filed this, and everybody started to use it, I would like to be rewarded.

     

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