United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
A. Gibney, Jr. United States District Judge.
case involves technology that helps businesses pry into
peoples' personal preferences and privacy. Advertisers
use targeted marketing techniques to place advertisements in
places likely to reach interested consumers. For example,
advertisers for pizza buy commercials during football games
and advertisers for diapers buy ads in parenting magazines.
This time-tested technique has migrated to the internet,
where advertisers have used cookies, which track a user's
internet browsing, to tailor advertisements to a person's
interests based on their browsing habits. Cookies, however,
do not do a good job of tracking consumer preferences,
because internet users can mask or hide their cookies. Public
resistance to spying has led technology companies to look for
new ways to look over peoples' shoulders as they browse
the internet. This case involves such high-tech snooping.
plaintiff, Bridge and Post, Inc. ("Bridge and
Post"), says that the defendants ("Verizon")
have infringed on three of its targeted marketing patents.
The first patent uses a persistent, unchangeable identifier
associated with an internet-enabled device such as a computer
or phone to track internet users and surpass cookies'
limitations. The second patent enables advertisers to use
that persistent identifier while still protecting
people's personal information. The third patent tags
internet traffic with an identifier to track a particular end
user through an encrypted process. The defendants have moved
to dismiss, arguing that the patents are directed toward
abstract ideas and do not offer a sufficiently inventive step
to warrant patentability.
Court agrees. The patents focus on the abstract ideas of
targeted marketing, the transfer of encrypted information,
and tracking. The patents do not offer a sufficiently
inventive step over prior art, and instead use conventional
technology and methods that fall short of patentability.
and Post owns the three patents in suit, U.S. Patent No. 7,
657, 594 (the '"594 Patent"), U.S. Patent No.
8, 862, 747 (the '"747 Patent"), and U.S.
Patent No. 9, 659, 314 (the '"314 Patent").
'594 Patent, the defendants say that Claim 1 is
representative of the other claims, and Bridge and Post does
not object to that characterization in its opposition
brief. Claim 1 reads:
method for providing directed media to a user on a network,
receiving a request from the user to access a content
provider web site over a network through a network access
device operated by the user;
retrieving a persistent device identifier of the network
determining a current network address of the network access
device and one or more characteristics of the access device,
wherein the current network address is assigned to the
network access device by a network service provider for a
present network access session;
retrieving historic information for the user, the historic
information including patterns of usage for the network
access device, and wherein the historic information comprises
network access information including times and locations of
network access and number of previous network accesses by the
network access device;
retrieving location-centric information for a location from
which the user is accessing the network;
generating a user profile based on the historic information
for the user, the location-centric information, and the one
or more characteristics of the access device;
storing the user profile as a record that identifies the user
through the current network address and the persistent device
identifier associated with the network access device;
incorporating into the user profile one or more group
characteristics identifying a group with which the user is
assigning a group identifier to the group based on the
patterns of usage;
analyzing the retrieved device identifier, historic
information, and location-centric information to determine a
directed media component to be provided to the user or the
group on the network access device[;] and
placing directed media referenced by the directed media
component in the web site requested by the user request from
the content provider, wherein the directed media comprises
content that is customized to the user based on the user
Patent, Dk. No. 1-1.) To put the claims in plain English, the
patent teaches a system that uses an unchangeable identifier
associated with each internet-connected device to track the
device's internet browsing history and physical location.
The system uses that data to create a profile for the device,
assign the device to a group based on the profile, and direct
targeted advertisements to the device based on the profile
and the group.
the invention claimed in the '594 Patent, internet
advertisers used two techniques to target consumers. First,
they used a computer's Internet Protocol (IP) address,
but the address provided only a rough estimate of the
computer's location and did not provide demographic
information. Next, advertisers used cookies, which store a
user's web browsing history as they surf the web, but
which users can disable or delete. The '594 Patent
claimed an innovation over prior systems by using a
persistent identifier associated with each internet-connected
device that a user cannot change and which provides detailed
geographic and demographic information.
ability to track an internet user's browsing history as
claimed in the '594 Patent created the issue protecting
people's personal information in the process. ...