Project Wonderful

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Patently Ridiculous

I don't usually like to blog about a news story until I have a handle on what the possible outcomes are, but this story was so surprising to me that I had to share.

CampaignGrid a "data-driven ad platform for political campaigns" has secured a patent on targeted online political advertising. What? WHAT? WHAT? Why is everyone not freaking out about this? This is a Joe Biden level BFD.

CampaignGrid’s patent, No. 8,763,033, is quite broad. Amazingly so, in fact. According to their press release, they now own “the ability to use publicly available voter registration records and political demographic data such as party affiliation, voting history and political geography to target and place advertising.”

Think about that for a second. This is the digital equivalent of a single firm patenting the ability to produce targeted direct mail.

CampaignGrid may in fact have been the first to apply digital marketing targeting technology to political campaigns but as Seth Oldmixon of points out,

"that doesn’t mean that it was a particularly innovative concept –- direct mail firms and phone vendors have been doing that for decades. All CampaignGrid did was apply an old methodology to a new technologyWhether or not CampaignGrid did it first, it’s hard to argue that the methodology wasn’t obvious and inevitable."
The extent to which CampaignGrid will enforce the patent and whether or not the patent will be challenged remain to be see. Some in the digital marketing world see the patent as a marketing stunt while others are wary that the move could pose serious obstacles for online digital innovation, the very that process that patents are supposed to protect.

According to a sorority sister and patent attorney, the patent office must have deemed the technology "new and non-obvious" in order to have issued the patent in the first place. However the patent can be challenged in court by a company or individual that believes they are going to be sued by CampaignGrid or by the patent office itself, if someone can show there is evidence that the office didn't consider but should have before issuing the patent.

As the Internet says, "Whoa, if true."

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