Ad Agency Claims It Owns The Right To Product Placement; Sues Competitors

from the is-it-april-first-already? dept

A few months back, we wrote about how ad agency Denizen wasn’t just claiming to have patented product placement (check it out: patent 6,859,936) but was suing another ad agency, WPP, for violating the patent. Perhaps Denizen’s next patents will be on claiming ownership of obvious ideas and suing your competitors, because it’s still at it. The latest is that it’s suing media agency Mindshare for incorporating the brand Vaseline into the TV show Maneater.

What’s really odd here, though, is that Denizen isn’t actually asserting that patent in this particular lawsuit — even though it mentions that it has it. Instead, it’s claiming a trade secret violation, noting that it met with Mindshare way back in 2004 and shared this groundbreaking concept of integrating products into show, and worked out an agreement that “Mindshare wouldn’t use, publish, disclose, communicate, or divulge information shared on Denizen’s proprietary method of product integration.” Specifically:

“During the meeting, Denizen disclosed to MindShare certain techniques…that could be used to implement program integrated advertisements, such as, but without limitation, ways to shoot the advertisements, strategies for obtaining Screen Actors Guild contracts, methods to gain access or rights to television program content, and how and when an advertising agency could work with a production house or network.”

I’m at a loss to think of how any of that can be “proprietary,” but perhaps Denizen has a creative lawyering department in addition to its regular creative advertising/marketing people.

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Companies: denizen, mindshare, wpp

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Comments on “Ad Agency Claims It Owns The Right To Product Placement; Sues Competitors”

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:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What particular form of brain-rot affects the members of the US patent office?

I’ve often pondered this myself… my latest theory involves them getting funding increases for making use of the “hire the retarded” incentives…

Though I could be wrong; maybe they just feed your patent-proposal thru an algorithm which counts the number of words which are greater than 4 syllables and if it beat a requisite number–ping!–you get a patent.

Kazi says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s a 2 way street. Don’t blame the Patent Office for nonsense stuffed down examiner’s throats by “lawyers” who have “best interests of the client” on their mind. Some examiners know what to do and how to do it while others have no clue and are new. Then there are those who don’t mind as there will always be someone complaining whether it’s the applicant, the supervisor, or the public. Everyone’s a critic, literally.

Fred McTaker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I can blame the USPTO all I want for releasing stupid, obvious, and not novel patents. IT’S THEIR JOB!

However, I don’t mind making their job easier. Just make the default to not allow patents. Reward them for denying most patents, which are bad anyway. Praise them for preventing patents that do so much harm to real innovation, by presenting simple remixing of the old as something new. Force them to pick out only the most novel and incredible ideas for patent protection. Force the applicants to submit prototypes again, so the inventions can be properly confirmed. Throw everything else away — it’s all crap anyway.

Anonymous1 says:

Some examiners know what to do and how to do it while others have no clue and are new…

Here’s a hot idea Kazi. Maybe the experienced ones should direct the inexperienced on HOW TO DO THEIR JOB before approving potentially frivilous, or baseless patents?
No? Too hard? Everyone is a critic, because of the utter absurdity which is the US patent process. When people can logically show such absurdity, it isn’t pointless criticism, it’s fact.

Fred McTaker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Lumpydog

The AC was right in this case wvhillbilly. Unions formed in America because Industrialist fatcats thought they could own other people and their products, and the government didn’t stop them, so Unions had to do it. Even if outsourcing is a byproduct of Unions, Unions are a byproduct of annoying Americans who think they own everything. You’re only adding a degree of separation.

Danny (profile) says:

way too much prior art for this to mean anything

Patent number: 6859936
Filing date: Nov 20, 2001
Issue date: Feb 22, 2005

A friend of mine based in Chicago (who I think came out of the advertising trade) had a very successful product placement consulting practice doing lots of business with TV and movies back in the late 1990s. And, of course, product placement was happening on TV in the 1950s, perhaps earlier on radio.

How stupid the patent office must have been to have granted this patent after the turn of the millennium.

Mike, I think the real story on this one is not the Chuztpah of Denizen (a shark is a shark), rather the incompetence of the Patent Agency.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: way too much prior art for this to mean anything

Yep they lose on Prior art. Jack Benny was a master of product placement in his radio show from the forties. He would mention sponsors and weave them into the story if it served the story and the sponsor.

We mainly get to hear the JELLO ones but I believe there are a bunch with a cigarette ad as a sponsor that really don’t work with out the ads and they can’t play them on radio with the ads.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Perhaps Denizen’s next patents will be on claiming ownership of obvious ideas”

All ideas are non obvious and require a patent to advance. Without patents no advancement would occur. At least this seems to be true according to our patent office, or at least how they behave, and they must be right. They’re a government body.

wheatus (user link) says:


I just patented the idea of commenting on a tech site that reports on patenting ideas that cannot be patented….also, I just patented capitalism, and M-Theory, and the idea of not ever having to work for anything ever.

You all owe me Squillzzions of yen and also, I am a God and must hence forth be worshipped as such. If you need to take an IOU then today is your lucky day SLAVE!….I’m offering a special this week. You can will me all your land, and anything you were planning on giving your kids when you die….

…and also I patented the human body so you will have to give me all your organs now if you can’t afford the $10 per cell, per day royalty. You will have to pay the doctor who removes them a $110 copay.


staff3 says:

stop the shilling!!!

“Perhaps Denizen’s next patents will be on claiming ownership of obvious ideas…”

First, you need to understand the meaning of “obviousness”. It is a term of art in patent law. Take a look David Pressman’s ‘Patent It Yourself’ pg 105. That they have obtained a patent is prima facie evidence that it is not “obvious”. Further, most often if you truly understand the claims they are not nearly so broad as they might first seem. Please stop trying to play patent attorney and tell Microsoft and their friends to keep their payola money.

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