Groupon is gearing up to report quarterly earnings later this month, but in the meantime the daily deals giant has another issue on its hands: it’s been hit with a patent infringement lawsuit by Blue Calypso, a digital marketing firm that claims Groupon is infringing two of its patents, 7,664,516 and 8,155,679, focused on peer-to-peer marketing technology. What’s more, from the sounds of it, Blue Calypso’s legal fights may be just beginning.
The complaint against Groupon has been filed in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas, and a separate statement from Blue Calypso’s CEO, Bill Ogle, notes that as social media companies continue to expand into areas like advertising, they are crossing into Blue Calypso’s patented territory. “As companies try to monetize their social media connections, they are rapidly moving into our technological area of expertise and it is imperative that we protect and secure what we have built,” he said. Blue Calypso’s full complaint, in which it requests a full jury trial, is embedded below.
Groupon declined to respond to questions about the case. “We do not comment on litigation,” a spokesperson told us.
This is not the first time that Groupon has been sued for patent infringement. A year ago SellerBid sued the company over some of its mobile-based services: location-based offers and group selling over wireless networks.
In November 2011, Groupon was sued, along with Yelp, by Mobile Commerce Framework, also over a mobile commerce patent.
The fact that the patents are all for slightly similar-sounding services underscores how tricky (and problematic) the patent landscape is, and also how a lot of social media and online services in particular may, essentially, be all built on the same blocks. That was one of the issues that was brought to light especially around the Yahoo/Facebook patent dispute, which has since been settled amicably.
Indeed, as with so many patent cases (although not all), Blue Calypso v. Groupon may well simply end in an out-of-court licensing deal, but until then, more legal headaches for Groupon, just as it is moving past an $8.5 million class-action lawsuit (which seems to be continuing to attract controversy).
Blue Calypso went public in September 2011, and in addition to owning patents, it has its own social marketing business.
Among the clients that have used its services — focused around the company’s CALYP platform — were Ogle’s former company, Motorola Mobility (prior to joining Blue Calypso in June, Ogle was the former CMO of Motorola Mobility and before that CMO for Samsung). Motorola used Blue Calypso to market Motorola handsets to mobile users.