Hulu Sued For Patent Infringement Over Pause Ad Feature

Pause Commercials, Inc. (PUCs) alleged that streaming service Hulu infringed upon its patents through its feature allowing for an advertisement to appear when streaming content is paused. The allegations were laid out in a complaint filed on Friday in the Central District of California against Hulu Inc. and individual defendants for patent infringement.

According to the complaint, Pause Commercials was founded in 2017 and in 2018 the company worked on a prototype for its technology allowing advertisers to display their ads on paused streaming content, also known as over-the-top (OTT) content. Additionally, the company said it worked to secure contracts with streaming advertising platforms to deploy this technology.

Meanwhile, the plaintiff alleged that in 2019, Hulu “launched the same OTT service as PUCs, using PUCs’ same patent-pending method to monetize projects they were distributing via OTT.” In 2020 the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued the plaintiff the patent for this method. Accordingly, the plaintiff noted that this required “Hulu to negotiate a deal with PUCs to continue monetizing their projects via this method.”

The patent-in-suit is U.S. Patent No. 10,278,619 (the ’619 patent), entitled “System and Methods for Playback Responsive Advertisements and Purchase Transactions,” which was issued on July 28, 2020. The plaintiff contended that the ’619 patent “concerns a method of delivering video and display ads, as well as making transactions, when users pause any device on over the top (‘OTT’) media space.”

PUCs claimed that it sent a letter to Hulu informing it that it has infringed the ’619 patent. PUCs asserted that Hulu did not cease using the patented inventions nor did the parties enter into a licensing agreement together.

The plaintiff averred that Hulu infringed the ’619 patent because it used the patented method and technology without authorization or a license from the plaintiff. Specifically, Hulu’s purportedly infringing products include its Pause Ad, wherein an ad appears when the viewer presses pause when watching content. Other allegedly infringing products include Hulu’s Ad Selector which allows the viewer to control the ad they will see,; GatewayGo which combines traditional ads with action-oriented prompts such as QR codes to bring the viewer to their mobile device; and Binge Ad, wherein an advertiser delivers their ad during a viewer’s “binge session.”

Pause Commercials is represented by Fish IP Law, LLP.