Four years after settling a federal antitrust suit against Nielsen, Frank Maggio is putting the patents he still owns for producing ratings based on digital set-tops and other devices up for auction. The auction, which will be conducted via a sealed bidding process, comes as the media and marketing research industry convenes at the Advertising Research Foundation’s annual conference in New York City.
The auction, which originally was supposed to be public, was switched to the private bidding process, Maggio said, because a number of parties interested in bidding on the patent portfolio indicated they did not want their interests or identities known.
The auction, which is being handled by the ICAP Patent Brokerage, includes a portfolio of eight patents and 119 claims broadly covering privacy compliant ratings generated from two sources: TV devices such as digital set-tops, DVRs and even mobile and broadband video players; and a second set of data derived from a “common characteristic” such as a zip code. When correlated, the two sets of data are the basis for generating the kind of TV ratings that Maggio’s erinMedia was trying to develop before it was shut down following its private settlement with Nielsen, the terms of which have never been disclosed.
The patent portfolio has been cited by industry giants including Apple, Comcast, DirecTV, Microsoft, Yahoo, and even Nielsen, and Maggio says it is expected to generate a great deal of interest from potential bidders who may fall into one of three categories: companies looking to move aggressively into the media ratings business, companies looking to defend established positions in the media ratings business, or companies looking to profit by creating a market from an intellectual property that could disrupt the media ratings business.
Dean Becker, CEO of ICAP Patent Brokerage, describes the portfolio as a “great package of properties,” but says it’s impossible to know what the interest will be in acquiring it until the bids come in. He says comparable patent portfolios have generated “tens of millions of dollars, or tens of thousands of dollars” in the past.