Another digital signage patent granted

August 4, 2010 by Dave Haynes

The Marlin Company of Wallingford, CT has been granted U.S. Patent No. 7,743,112 for the Electronic Communication Station, its digital signage solution aimed at workplace communications.

The official synopsis on the patent grant:

A method and apparatus for the distribution of electronic media content for distribution to employees of a subscriber. The system includes an electronic display for displaying selected electronic media content that may be selected, modified and/or generated by the subscriber. The system allows for dramatically increased subscriber control of the media content presented as well as for increased security for any confidential media content to be presented on the customer display. The system further provides for individual control of multiple displays that may be located in differing geographic locations while at the same time providing for ease of information management.

In the company’s blog, it notes that the “digital signage market is dominated by platforms used for marketing and advertising in retail settings, such as stores, banks, gas stations and entertainment venues. Marlin is the pioneer in offering a turnkey solution, developed specifically for the unique needs of the workplace. Animated content displayed in multiple panels and refreshed daily, helps managers “advertise” key messages to their employees in a way that sticks. Marlin provides industry content and software that allows users to easily create in-house communication using their own photos, videos, metrics, charts, PowerPoints and websites.

“Every manager has important issues that they need to reinforce with their workers,” said Frank Kenna III, President of the Marlin Company. “Given the level of worker distraction these days, visual communication is key to grabbing attention. Yet, any digital signage deployment is only as good as the content it plays. We save managers time and effort by supplying fresh content with automatic updates, and simple tools for customization.”

I have waaay too much going on to read the patent in detail, but it goes on and on about what is covered. In the normally surreal fashion of patents, there is an opening comment of “Briefly stated …” followed by countless paragraphs filled with objectives and embodiments.

What I can see of the diagrams is pretty garden-variety, browser-based digital signage. The question always begs … what does the patent-holder do with this? StrandVision got a SaaS digital signage patent a few months ago and Mike Strand was not entirely sure or forthcoming on what he planned to do with it.

The problem with patents, of course, is you can burn off piles of cash trying to enforce them, even though there are usually yawning loopholes – especially with this sort of thing.

With the case of Marlin, my guess is the first reaction of the software community to another patent will be … “Who???” Followed by “Huh?”

The company is family-owned, in New England, and has been around almost a century doing bulletin boards and workplace safety notices. So they know workplace communications and would clearly have a pile of clients. They also have a nice, tidy website, and definitely don’t look like some of the start-up knuckleheads who come in and out of the sector all the time.

BUT … I will politely and respectfully submit Marlin has only a fingernail grip on content presentation and visual dynamics for digital displays. Like countless others, the flagship product is overloaded with content zones (and this notion is even baked into the patent).

Sigh. It would be great to see a company fully focused on workplace communications going to the market with something that will be effective, as opposed to causing eye strain and vertigo.

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