Online video streaming service Hulu is in the midst of looking for a buyer, but any suitors might have to take patent turmoil into account when they think about buying the company. Single Touch Interactive has sent Hulu a “Letter of Notification” that it owns patents it believes are directly applicable to Hulu’s business—and, presumably, that Hulu had better fork over some money or get ready to go to court. Single Touch claims U.S. patents 7,054,949, 7,191,224, and 7,689,706, all of which were applied for back in 2001 and granted from 2006 through 2010.
“After years of establishing ourselves as a pioneer in mobility, and cementing our IP position, it has become increasingly important for us to take the steps necessary to protect what we have already established,” said Single Touch’s chairman and Chief Innovation Officer Anthony Macaluso, in a statement.
Single Touch aims to provide mobile media solutions to advertisers, retailers, and brandholders: so far, the company has focuses on its own advertising and coupon platform, and has recently branched out into the business of abbreviated dial code, and handling reminder and texting campaigns for clients. The company claims to reach more than 280 million mobile subscribers. It’s not immediately clear how Single Touch’s patents apply directly to Hulu’s business model, but they certainly predate much of the mobile media revolution, and on a quick glance appear to be couched in general terms that cover a variety of potential applications—but the same is true for most technology patents. It’s also not clear why Single Touch is going after Hulu, and not other streaming media services…but perhaps others have entered into negotiations, or Hulu is just Single Touch’s first step.
The move comes about three months after Single Touch installed former Saatchi & Saatchi exec James Orsini as its CEO.
Single Touch doesn’t say what it wants from Hulu: a “letter of notification” is generally a formal notification that one person or company believes another’s technology or products infringes on their patents. If the parties can’t come to some agreement—such as licensing terms or determining that the patents aren’t applicable—the next step is generally a lawsuit.