NetZero Wins a Round Against Juno Online in Patent Dispute

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Internet service provider NetZero Inc. has received a temporary restraining order against rival Juno Online Services Inc. in their ongoing patent dispute, NetZero said yesterday.

The order, however, covers far less than the Westlake Village, CA, company had hoped it would.

The order, which takes effect Friday and extends until mid-March, prevents Juno from displaying third-party advertisements in its ad banner window. Under the order, Juno can still use its ad banner window but can only advertise its own services.

NetZero had hoped the order would enjoin Juno from using its ad serving mechanism, called The Juno Guide. NetZero believes it is nearly identical to the ad window described in its patent for serving ads in a floating window that is always on the screen when a user's Internet connection is open.

In a statement, Juno president/CEO Charles Ardai said: "We are pleased, but by no means surprised, that the court has rejected NetZero's request to temporarily restrain Juno from engaging in a broad class of advertising activities and has adopted for this purpose the far narrower standard drafted by Juno, whose scope is limited to the display of third-party advertising on Juno's floating ad banner.

"Such advertising currently accounts for less than 4 percent of Juno's revenues."

Ardai pointed out that only one-third of Juno's revenue results from banner advertising served this way.

"It is our contention, however, that even this narrowly defined form of advertising does not in fact infringe on any valid patent issued to NetZero," he said in the statement. "For this reason, we still intend to vigorously contest the allegations made by NetZero in this lawsuit.

"Moreover, we continue to believe that NetZero is infringing on a valid patent issued to Juno and look forward to pursuing, through appropriate legal channels, the resolution of both this lawsuit and the one we filed earlier against NetZero."

A hearing is scheduled for late March. NetZero said it would ask the court at that time to extend and possibly expand the order until trial, which is set for July.

NetZero, a provider of free Internet service, sued Juno in late December for infringement on its newly acquired patent for serving ads to its customers.

Juno, New York, sued NetZero last year for patent infringement. After NetZero was awarded a patent for its ad serving technology in December, it turned around and sued Juno for infringement as well.

NetZero said it was granted an exclusive license to the patent for its ad serving technology on Dec. 6.

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