Nielsen v. Hypha Dismissed, Frees Startup To Begin Panel Rollout

In an apparent victory for a promising audience-measurement startup, a U.S. district court dismissed a suit filed by Nielsen against HyphaMetrics alleging it infringed on one of Nielsen's patents.

The redacted ruling -- made May 8 and filed May 15 -- dismisses the first of two patent-infringement claims brought by Nielsen against HyphaMetrics.

And while a second one still is pending, the startup team says the ruling vindicates its position that HyphaMetrics' methodology does not infringe on Nielsen's patents, enabling it to move forward with a national panel rollout this year.

In the dismissed suit, filed in 2021, Nielsen claimed HyphaMetrics infringed on its "power management for audience measurement meters" patent.



In the pending suit, filed last year, Nielsen claims HyphaMetrics infringes on its “Recurrent Deep Neural Network System for Detecting Overlays in Images" patent.

“To start a company from scratch is like climbing Mount Everest and these lawsuits have made Mount Everest into a volcano that’s erupting for us. It’s expensive. They’re lengthy. And what's their intent," HyphaMetrics Founder and CEO Joanna Drews says, adding: "Is the intent to bring innovation forward in the marketplace, because it doesn’t seem that way."

Drews will reassume HyphaMetrics' day-to-day CEO role following the departure of Chris Wilson, who earlier this week announced he was stepping down following 18 months in the role, although he remains a HyphaMetrics shareholder.

Drews declined to comment on what was redacted from the dismissed suit's filing, but says she is confident that it frees HyphaMetrics to begin deploying a national panel this year.

She also declined to elaborate on its timing or scale, citing Nielsen's litigious nature.

HyphaMetrics is one of several startups Nielsen has sued for patent infringement in recent years as it seeks to protect its intellectual property, as well as stave off competition.

Among the companies being sued by Nielsen are TVision and Innovid, which acquired TVSquared, which Nielsen has a patent infringement claim against.

Unlike other Nielsen defendants, HyphaMetrics' Drews says her company's methodology does not utilize panel data, ACR (automated content recognition) data, or watermarking technologies, which conceivably might violate Nielsen's intellectual property, but utilizes a sophisticated combination of a software meter informed utilizing computer vision to capture what is on a panelist's screens and its own proprietary AI to assign programming and/or advertising attributes to what is being watched.

The methodology has been lauded by a number of audience-measurement authorities and was utilized by the Coalition of Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM) to implement a study of passive vs. active TV audience-measurement systems last year.

"HyphaMetrics’ technology is the only technology that can differentiate between ad-supported and non-ad-supported user-generated and streaming video, which is exactly what the TVB [Television Bureau of Advertising] is saying is needed with its public review of the Nielsen Gauge report."

Drews was referring to Nielsen's decision last month to begin reporting aggregated viewing of TV and streaming sources in its monthly "The Gauge" newsletter, which showed that Disney dominated the industry's share of viewing in April, followed closely by YouTube.

Nielsen this morning released the second monthly edition of that analysis, once again showing Disney and YouTube at the top of aggregated distributor audience share.

Following Nielsen's initial release of that data last month, some industry sources -- most notably the TVB -- argued that Nielsen's new analysis is flawed because it does not delineate between ad-supported and non-ad-supported TV/streaming audiences and therefore is not representative for the advertising marketplace.

"Nielsen doesn't tell the whole story," Drews says, adding, "Hypha is capable of telling the full story."

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