United States: New Dogs, Old Tricks: Pet Insurance Company Looks To Guard Its Tech Turf With Patent Lawsuit

Last Updated: October 1 2019
Article by Robert Ling

In late June 2019, first-time patent plaintiff Trupanion sued first-time patent defendant Embrace Pet Insurance – two competitors in the fast-growing pet insurance industry – in the Northern District of Ohio over patents underlying Trupanion's cloud-based integrated claims-processing system. Trupanion markets itself as "the only company with the technology to pay your veterinarian directly in minutes at the time of checkout." Trupanion achieves that by directly integrating their cloud service with veterinarians' computer systems. Embrace's service similarly integrates with veterinarians' computer systems and receives electronic claims submitted by the vet during a patient visit. In its complaint, Trupanion claims that Embrace brazenly knocked off Trupanion's patent-protected technology.

According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) – a trade organization founded in 2007 by, among others, Trupanion – the first pet insurance policy sold in America covered the Hollywood celebrity Lassie. Since Lassie's owners sought financial protection from the perils of cave spelunking in 1982, pet insurance has grown to cover some 1.6 million animals in North America today, supporting an industry valued at nearly $775 million dollars. The industry picked up momentum in the 2010s, as Trupanion's own enrollment bounded from 31,207 at the start of 2010 to 181,634 in early 2014. In 2014, Trupanion went public at least in part to fund development of their cloud technology. By 2017, Trupanion had rolled out their system and announced to their competitors – through NAPHIA – their pending patent application on it.

Embrace unleashed their competing service later in 2017. The next summer, Trupanion obtained the first patent on their technology, covering a "Pet Insurance System and Method." With patent in paw, Trupanion turned right around and highlighted it in a letter to Embrace containing – in Trupanion's words – an offer "to work together to ensure that Embrace did not use any of Trupanion's intellectual property." Embrace declined to heel to Trupanion's offer. In 2019, Trupanion went from bark to bite by filing a complaint in Embrace's backyard of Ohio.

At a high level, Trupanion's complaint is simple. Trupanion casts itself as a leading innovator in pet insurance and accuses Embrace of chasing its tail to market. In particular, Trupanion asserts two related patents and asks the court to enjoin Embrace from continuing to infringe Trupanion's patents and to award Trupanion compensation from Embrace for infringement already done. But Trupanion is looking for more than just compensation for business it alleges Embrace unfairly competed away from it. Trupanion claims this case is "exceptional" and asks the court to punish Embrace by tripling damages and making Embrace cover Trupanion's attorneys' fees.

And a few things do make this case if not exceptional, then at least fishy. First, Trupanion's aggressive patent posture. Trupanion announced their interest in obtaining and asserting patent protection to the industry generally on several occasions. Once Trupanion had retrieved a first patent from the USPTO, they announced their interest in asserting it against Embrace to that company directly. So, Trupanion claims that they warned Embrace and then gave Embrace an opportunity to cooperate with them, but that Embrace disregarded their rights and trampled right over them.

Trupanion bolsters their claim that Embrace knew about Trupanion's innovation strategy by citing to a 2017 episode of the "Pet Insurance Guide Podcast." In an interview on that program, Embrace’s "Director of Territory Outreach" acknowledged that Trupanion beat their own integrated system to market. After Trupanion brought this podcast to Embrace's attention, the episode disappeared from the Pet Insurance Guide Podcast's index. Trupanion alleges that Embrace "directed, or was otherwise involved in, the scrubbing of the . . . podcast from the web in an attempt to cover up Embrace's infringement." Unfortunately for Embrace, the Internet – like an elephant – rarely forgets, and Trupanion archived the podcast before it was mysteriously "scrubbed." At the time of this piece's publication, the Pet Insurance Guide Podcast has apparently gone defunct, its domain abandoned.

As more services move to the cloud, and more companies become "tech companies," more domains become eligible for patent protection and susceptible to patent attacks. Innovators in young industries especially might consider following Trupanion's lead by marking their territory. By establishing and publically pursuing a patent strategy early, Trupanion might be about to successfully fence in its competition. At the same time, cloud service providers of all types should stand on guard from bulldog patent plaintiffs.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions