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A Nevada attorney and former tournament blackjack player says he invented-and patented-most forms of targeted online advertising. Now, Sheldon Goldberg has filed a lawsuit demanding royalties from 12 major media companies, including the owners of Conde Nast magazines and alt-weekly publisher Village Voice Media.
The defendants in the lawsuit are: Advance Publications; which owns Conde Nast magazines and several newspapers; ALM Media, which owns The American Lawyer magazine group and several legal newspapers; Amazon; (NSDQ: AMZN) American Media (Playboy, Flex, Fit Pregnancy, Shape); Rodale (Men’s Health, Runner’s World, Bicycling); Scripps Interactive (NYSE: SNI) (Food Network, HGTV, DIY Network); Demand Media; (NYSE: DMD) Viacom; (NYSE: VIA) and alt-weekly publisher Village Voice Media.
At this point in history, practically every company doing business on the internet is subject to patent lawsuits. But Goldberg’s lawyers managed to find a few new defendants. I can’t find any record of any earlier patent lawsuits against either ALM Media or Village Voice Media, for example.
Goldberg has become fairly notorious for filing patent lawsuits against targets that haven’t typically faced many patent suits before. When the Electronic Frontier Foundation created a “patent busting project,” it named one of Sheldon’s patents as one of ten bogus software patents it had targeted for reexamination. (While a reexam was granted on that patent, the results aren’t clear from EFF’s web page; the patent isn’t one of the ones asserted in this lawsuit.)
I called Goldberg’s lead attorney on this case, Greg Dovel of Dovel & Luner, a small California law firm. I asked Dovel about Goldberg’s wide-ranging claims on targeted advertising. Dovel noted that the patents are quite old for this field-one was filed in 2000 and claims priority back to an earlier 1996 application. “People have been concerned about these patents, and have looked hard at them,” said Dovel, noting that the Goldberg patents have gone through reexamination at the Patent Office, which considered “literally hundreds of pieces of prior art” before confirming they’re valid. “It’s an original, basic patent in the targeted advertising space,” says Dovel.
Goldberg is executing this lawsuit through a company called Beneficial Innovations, which has filed three patent lawsuits on his behalf before. Two of those suits were filed in 2007 and the final defendants in those cases-which included Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and The New York Times-settled earlier this year. Goldberg’s A third lawsuit, filed in 2009, is still pending in the same East Texas district that this most recent suit was filed in.
Goldberg’s last batch of media defendants also included CNET, The Washington Post (NYSE: WPO), Tribune Interactive, and Digg.com.
» Beneficial Innovations v. Advance Publications et al. [PDF]