Sabela sues DoubleClick in antitrust case

Sabela Media has launched an antitrust lawsuit against rival online advertising company DoubleClick, adding fuel to an already heated legal battle between the two companies.

The lawsuit is the third proceeding between the companies since December last year, with Sabela's parent company, 24/7, currently suing DoubleClick for alleged patent infringement.

In this countersuit, Sabela is claiming DoubleClick behaved in an anti-competitive manner when it launched a patent infringement lawsuit against the Australian-founded internet company late last year.

Sabela was acquired by 24/7 Media in January this year for $100 million.

According to a Sabela spokesperson, the long-term prospects of Sabela were jeopardised by an infringement suit served by DoubleClick during the final throes of a $14 million capital raising round.

"They basically sued us to weaken us . . . the next day they entered into negotiations to buy us," a spokesperson from the company said.

"They interfered with the natural progression of the company . . . and caused us to be purchased." 24/7 acquired Sabela after DoubleClick's negotiations failed, the spokesperson said.

According to the spokesperson, DoubleClick behaved in an anti-competitive manner by trying to eliminate competitors in the market through acquisitions. Additionally, DoubleClick violated antitrust laws by failing to disclose information to the US Patent Office regarding competitors and rivals.

US online company L90 faced a similar patent infringement suit from DoubleClick at the same time as Sabela when it was also seeking to raise capital funding.

Sabela has requested injunctive relief and is seeking monetary and punitive damages. The spokesperson would not reveal the expected payout.

"We expect to prove DoubleClick withheld critical information from the US Patent Office, knew that its patent was invalid at the time it brought suit against Sabela and used its patent in an anti-competitive manner to the detriment of competition on the internet," Gour Lentell, co-founder of Sabela and executive chairman of 24/7 Media technology solutions, said.

Sabela's countersuit was launched in a US District Court in Southern New York on Friday, the same day rival company L90 also launched a countersuit against DoubleClick.

It is not expected L90 and Sabela will join forces to launch a class action suit against DoubleClick, however.

Meanwhile, DoubleClick is also facing pressure from the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee which has begun a public hearing on internet privacy which will investigate DoubleClick's controversial use of consumer data.

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