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.

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Companies: hulu, ultramercial, wildtangent, youtube

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Comments on “That Whole Watch An Ad To Get Content Thing? Patented… And The Patent Holder Has Been Suing”

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Matt (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Tony E (profile) says:

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…

Matt (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

another Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

AnonCow says:

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.

AW says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward (user link) says:

Salon Virgin Knikers

I see two examples cited in these comments: Virgin Mobile and 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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