Most of the chatter in the last 2-3 years about digital signage has been about the so-called trolls out there that are mostly or entirely in the business of filing legal actions and generating revenues from pre-court settlements.
But not all the disputes and IP issues involve trolls.
A company that’s been part of the digital signage ecosystem for many years has let it be known it has intellectual property it’s reasonable to think they plan to eventually start dealing with companies it deems are willfully infringing the IP.
Orlando, Florida-based Monster Media announced this morning its grant for US patent 8,615,565 for “Automatic content retrieval based on location-based screen tags.”
The patent relates to the automatic retrieval and display of social media on location-based screens such as digital out-of-home networks and signage at venues, events and arenas. In other words, the display of Tweets, check-ins, shared pix and other social media streams.
This is the IP that Monster got when it acquired Boston-based LocaModa last summer.
Stephen Randall, LocaModa’s founder and CEO and now Monster Media’s EVP of Mobile and Social, explained in the patent announcement today: “Automatically creating a sustainably interesting screen was a problem that needed to be solved for our industry. Simply using local messages or single content sources gets boring very quickly as audiences lose interest if content is repeated.”
“We solved the problem by leveraging conversations across multiple networks and tagging those conversions with keywords that the local screens then subscribe to,” added Randall. “Of course, we filter the content to make sure that it is appropriate for each venue, but the result is an automatic system that increases interest in and value of the media.”
The company says its IP pre-dates the now popular use of hashtags in social media, and the platform now regularly gets used to “systematically aggregate, filter and display” Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and Instagram on Digital OOH and event-based screens.
Indeed, I remember seeing LocaModa doing demos of its original Wifitti product – which pushed and visualized hyper-local social messages to screens – at DSE in 2005 in Chicago. That was well BEFORE Twitter became a thing.
LocaModa had roughly a decade of development and pretty big dollars pumped into developing of the platform as it now stands, and undoubtedly both Randall and his new masters in Orlando would like to sweat the asset and generate revenues in ways beyond just the Digital OOH campaigns they directly enable.
So what does this mean?
If you built and market a software content management platform that calls the Twitter API, and other social streams, and puts that up on screens – you may be infringing on the Monster/LocaModa patent. I am guessing there are dozens of CMS companies out there that have social widgets and gadgets, and other specialty creative and feed services that also call and display social streams.
What will happen?
I’d expect Monster would like to license this to companies in ways similar to the way LocaModa was attempting to do for many years. I believe LocaModa had much more success working with brands, though, than with software companies that by nature would think they could call Twitter and other APIs themselves. Why pay LocaModa for their service when it wasn’t that hard to do it themselves?
Most if not all the companies that have their own social media integrations will also have their own patents for the way they do certain things. This patent and the claims that come out of are much more in line with those sorts of patents than the “troll patent” claims out there that are going after money based roughly on the broad idea of “doing” digital signage. There’s another big one out there involving WiFi.
I suspect this will be the subject of considerable discussion this week in and around DSE.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.