Nielsen Sues comScore In The Battle Of The Audience-Measurement Firms

In a move by the Nielsen Company that could spark a more drawn-out legal battle, the ratings company has accused rival comScore (NSDQ: SCOR), Inc. of infringing five patents it owns that relate to measuring and displaying online content. In a lawsuit filed in a Virginia federal court, Nielsen names more than 30 different comScore products it believes are violating its patent rights. Nielsen sued several other ratings companies a few years ago, but has been quiet until now, as the Hollywood Reporter pointed out.

Three of the five patents mentioned in this lawsuit are Nielsen’s own, and were granted in 2008 and 2009. Two other patents were granted in 2000 and 2002, and were originally owned by Jupiter Media (NSDQ: JUPM) Metrix, which used them to sue Nielsen. Nielsen settled that suit in 2002 by paying $15 million, and it acquired the two patents as part of the settlement.

Nielsen is making a dangerous play by suing comScore. The most common strategy in responding to a patent attack is to sue back with one’s own patents, and that could mire both of these companies in expensive litigation if they don’t reach a quick settlement. Even if comScore doesn’t have patents of its own to counter-sue with, it’s not terribly difficult to purchase patents for that purpose. Still, this is new territory for comScore; federal courts records indicate this is the first patent suit the company has faced.

A Nielsen spokeswoman said the company has made “substantial” investments in its intellectual property, adding: “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.”

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