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CONDE IN COURT: Condé Nast Publications appears to have escaped a long-standing patent infringement case unscathed after a judge sided with the publisher in a pre-trial opinion. The unusual case, which still could have far-reaching implications in the Web publishing business, has pit Condé Nast and Vogue against a one-time vendor, Active8media LLC, a business that turns catalogues and magazines into interactive Web pages.
In 2004, Vogue hired the company to create and host interactive versions of ads that appeared in the magazine’s September issue. Hosted on the now-defunct shopseptembervogue.com, the site allowed consumers to scroll through ads that popped up with information about the advertised products and linked to brand Web sites — a service for which Activ8media held a number of patents. When Vogue engaged a competitor to create interactive Web ads and host the site the following year, Active8media sued Condé Nast for infringement.
In the four years since, servers have followed the case for its potential impact on Web publishing. (It also embroiled a number of Vogue employees, including then-publisher Tom Florio, who was deposed.) At issue: how the court would define the limits of Active8media’s patents. A broad reading, according to Condé Nast’s attorneys, Kramer, Levin Naftalis & Frankel, could give the company claim to many interactive advertisements on the Web, for instance, banner or pop-up ads that linked to other Web sites.
“They were seeking to push the limits of their patents,” said Condé’s chief trial counsel, Randy Lipsitz. “It stood to be a gold mine for them.”
But in a decision handed down last Friday, Judge Kenneth Karas of the Southern District Court of New York ruled in favor of Condé Nast, concluding the publisher did not infringe on Active8media’s patents. The narrow reading of Active8media’s patents should lead to a dismissal, according to Lipsitz. But the judge has yet to consider other claims in the case, including charges against Condé Nast for trademark and trade secret infringement.
— Brenner Thomas