The team at Oddcast, a viral marketing firm founded in New York during the peak of the dot-com boom, has a special affinity for faces. In campaigns for blue-chip clients like McDonalds, Disney, Verizon and Ford, Oddcast created online games and promotions that allowed users to upload photos of themselves and create virtual avatars, digital composites that took their facial features and produced a likeness they could share with friends.
Oddcast was one of the small group of companies among hundreds of start-ups launched in 1999 to survive the bursting of the tech bubble in 2001. Over the next decade the company grew to more 40 employees and was able to secure a $4 million round of funding in 2004 from Union Square Ventures, one of the top V.C. firms in the nation. Little did they know that around the same time, a small, Fresno, Calif., firm called IQ Biometrix was securing several patents related to the creation of digital facial images. It wasn’t until 2009, when they received notice of a lawsuit over patent infringement, that Oddcast even knew IQ Biometrix existed.
A source familiar with the situation, who asked to remain anonymous because of the nature of the lawsuit, said the team at Oddcast felt like the victims of a practical joke. “Anyone who has owned a Mr. Potato Head understands the idea of taking different features and putting them together to make a face. Oddcast never competed with this company for market share, never saw a line of their code and never borrowed an idea from them to create their business.” But at the urging of their board members, lawyers and investors, Oddcast agreed to settle, rather than fight the lawsuit in court. Read More