About itracks and Our Online Facilities

As holder of a significant United States patent for conducting online focus group discussions, itracks is committed to offering the most advanced and flexible online facilities to best serve market researchers.

itracks was a pioneer of online focus groups and since their inception in 1996, online methodologies have gained wide-spread acceptance among qualitative researchers.

itracks’ online focus group technology provides the face-to-face experience of a real-time focus group discussion in an online environment by mimicking the one-way mirror of a traditional focus group facility. This model is the underpinning for both synchronous and asynchronous focus group methodologies. While the methodologies and associated system software has advanced over the years, this fundamental virtual one-way mirror aspect of the facilities remains.

While it is this virtual one-way mirror that first defined online qualitative facilities, itracks has advanced the software with online tools developed specifically for moderators. itracks’ time and investment over the last 10 years, and our careful attention to client needs, explain why itracks is the leader in online qualitative facilities.

About the Patent

itracks owns U.S. Patent No. 6,256,663 (“the ‘663 patent”), issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on July 3, 2001 for conducting online focus group discussions. itracks obtained exclusive rights to the ‘663 patent from Greenfield Online, Inc., the original patent holders, on December 31, 2001 and has since become the premier supplier of online facilities. In a Joint Press Release issued by itracks and Greenfield Online, then-Greenfield Online CEO Dean Wiltse indicated that, “[Greenfield Online] recognize itracks’ software as the leading technology in the marketplace. We’re excited to use itracks’ software to deliver our world class online focus group services.” Greenfield Online, Inc. continues to use only the itracks online focus group facilities.

Artafact and itracks signed an agreement for Artafact to license the patent in 2012.

What does the ‘663 patent cover?

Essentially, the patent covers a focus group that occurs over a computer network, where a traditional face-to-face, real-time focus group methodology can be implemented in an online environment with all the benefits of such an environment. The patented technology provides a methodology for conducting online discussions, including text-based, image-based, audio based and/or video-based discussions, where discussion participants, including the moderator, respondents, and client representatives, have the ability to be remotely located from each other.

The patented invention specifically covers a system and method for conducting focus group discussions among participants who are interconnected with each other over a computer network allowing electronic data exchange among the participants. The patented invention also permits an online focus group discussion utilizing virtual one-way mirror technology whereby the respondents can be separated and isolated from client representatives observing the discussion as in a traditional face-to-face, real-time focus group discussion. This virtual one-way mirror ensures that client representatives cannot directly influence the input of the respondents, or that the respondents will be intimidated by the presence of client representative. Greater power is placed within the control of the moderator, resulting in more effective discussion and results.

Why did itracks obtain the ‘663 patent?

In an industry where the most important product is knowledge, respect for ownership of intellectual property is paramount. Without respect for patents, copyrights, trademarks and other forms of intellectual property, our industry would not have a strong voice should the intellectual capital of any of our members ever be threatened.

Given itracks’ substantial investment in developing online focus group technology and methodologies, both monetarily and in the pride of innovation, we respect the intellectual property rights a patent bestows. We also want the respect the patent rights deserve. We believe that all members of the market research community must uphold the integrity of intellectual property rights in order to maintain the integrity of the industry.

I respect Intellectual Property Rights. What can I do to ensure I do not contravene the patent?

To ensure you do not contravene itracks’ patent rights, you have some choices. If you are a market research provider or an end client, you can choose to do your online qualitative research with itracks or with one of the providers that are licensing the patent.

If you are an online facilities provider, you can join the itracks Online Qualitative Network. You can still use the technology you developed, but in a way that is in accordance with the patent.

Email Garnette Weber at gweber@itracks.com for more information.