Company looks to sell or license targeted ad patents

A U.S. technology firm says it hopes to sell or collect royaltes on targeted online advertising patents

A Georgia technology vendor said Wednesday it is looking to collect money from three patents on targeted online advertising, either by selling the patents or by collecting licensing fees from dozens of online advertising firms.

Concurrent Computer, which sells Linux-based software to government and enterprise customers, obtained the three patents as part of its acquisition of Everstream Holdings in October 2005, said Kirk Somers, the company's executive vice president. Concurrent has begun sending letters to more than 50 companies, including Microsoft and Google, suggesting they may be using the patented technology without a license, Somers said.

The patents cover virtually all methods of targeted advertising on the Internet, the company said.

Concurrent's primary goal is to sell the three patents to another company interested in targeted online advertising, Somers said. The company has hired IPinvestments Group, an intellectual property business advisory firm, to help it sell the patents, and its goal would be to sell the patents by the end of the year.

The company's aim is to "ensure the continued growth of this market while maximizing the value of our intellectual property," Concurrent President and CEO Gary Trimm said in a statement.

But Concurrent is also considering keeping the patents and attempting to collect licensing fees, possibly through patent infringement lawsuits, Somers said. "We haven't ruled out the hammer technique completely," he said. "The patents are key to [several companies'] strategies."

Right now, Concurrent would prefer to avoid lawsuits, Somers said. The company wants to work out agreements where "we all can benefit," he added.

The patents relate to systems and methods of bundling stored data, such as music, video and television content, with stored advertisements and delivering them to users based on user requests or profiles. The portfolio of related patents includes three U.S. patents, three Canadian patents, as well as U.S. and foreign patent applications.

The U.S. patents included in the portfolio are No. 5,931,901, related to programmed music on demand from the Internet; No. 6,038,591, also related to programmed music packaged with advertisements; and No. 6,161,142, for a method and system for using a communication network to supply targeted streaming advertising in interactive media.

The first patent was filed in March 1997, and the other two are continuations of the first patent, Concurrent said.

Concurrent expects that some companies may challenge the patents, especially in the case of infringement lawsuits, Somers said. The company has taken the last year and a half to investigate the patents, and it believes they are valid, he said.

"We didn't find any problems with them," he added.

A Google representative wasn't immediately available to comment on the patents.

Asked about the value of the patents, Somers declined to get more specific than to say it was significant. "I don't want to unrealistically set expectations at the high or low side," he said.

Concurrent's patent claims come two weeks after Microsoft officials complained that Linux and other open-source projects infringe on 235 of its patents. Concurrent's claims are "completely independent" of the Microsoft claims against Linux, Somers said. "We've been working on this a long time," he added.

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