In June, RPXreported the May 2020 assignment of nearly 50 US assets by Intellectual Ventures LLC (IV) to Fleet Connect Solutions LLC—a Texas entity recently formed by the principals of monetization firm Empire IP LLC. Fleet Connect has now filed its first lawsuits asserting those patents, targeting Dayton Freight Lines (4:20-cv-00280), Gentrifi (2:20-cv-00370), Goldberg Asset Management (d/b/a Efficient Fleets) (6:20-cv-01095), Melton Truck Lines (6:20-cv-01096), and Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits (6:20-cv-01097), formally across multiple campaigns but each over their alleged use of various Omnitracs vehicle fleet tracking systems, including electronic logging devices (ELDs), gateways, and/or telematics functionality.
Fleet Connect accuses both Dayton Freight and Efficient Fleets of infringing a patent originally developed by Conexant Systems (7,742,388) and generally related to managing packets in wireless communications. The '388 patent issued in June 2010, passing from Conexant to IV among 50 assets transferred in 2008. The plaintiff asserts three additional patents against Dayton Freight (9,299,044; 9,747,565; 10,671,949), broadly directed to wirelessly monitoring the completion of tasks by a worker using a mobile device. These patents issued as part of a 30-plus patent family developed by various entities related to Ortiz & Lopez, PLLC (d/b/a OL PATENTS), with issue dates across the family ranging from November 2005 through June 2020 (the '949 patent).
OL PATENTS has managed a campaign arising from other members of this same family since 2008 through controlled plaintiffs Mesa Digital LLC and Ortiz & Associates Consulting, LLC (OAC)—which each filed a case as recently as April 2020 (see here for details)—as well as earlier through Front Row Technologies LLC. The named inventors of the '044, '565, and '949 patents are Luis M. Ortiz, a patent lawyer and one of the two named partners of OL PATENTS (the other being Kermit D. Lopez, also a patent lawyer), and Frank A. Barbosa. Barbosa and Ortiz assigned their patents to Field Data Management Solutions, LLC, a New Mexico entity that they cocreated in July 2005, before those patents were transferred to an IV affiliate in September 2010.
In addition to the '388 patent, Fleet Connect asserts four other patents against Efficient Fleets. One of those patents belongs to the same 30-plus patent family just discussed (8,494,581). IV asserted the '581 patent, generally pertaining to completing fieldwork assessments on a mobile device, in a campaign of its own, accusing FedEx of infringement in a case that ended in an Eastern District of Texas jury verdict of noninfringement and invalidity (as obvious in light of certain prior art) of claims 1, 18, and 20 of the '581 patent (as well as unfavorably as to multiple other asserted patents). FedEx filed a concurrent petition for inter partes review of all 17 claims of the '581 patent—none were found unpatentable in a final written decision dated in July 2018 (IPR2017-00729).
The remaining patents asserted against Efficient Fleets (7,058,040; 7,656,845; 8,005,053) comprise a family of three, with issue dates ranging from June 2006 through August 2011 and generally related to managing wireless data transmission between multiple transceivers and over multiple wireless protocols (including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular) operating on the same frequency. The original development work for the patents was conducted at Airify Communications, a wireless multi-protocol semiconductor company, formed by Dominik J. Schmidt (the named inventor of this family) and based in California. Airify was reportedly acquired by Intel in 2004, in August of which the patents were assigned to an IV affiliate, together with more than two dozen other assets. (Other former Airify assets have been subsequently litigated; in March 2019, a set of such patents was transferred to M-Red Inc., a subsidiary of publicly traded Quest Patent Research Corporation (QPRC) that litigated them in a campaign hitting Acer, MediaTek, and Panasonic before ending in early September 2020.)
Gentrifi is accused of infringing three patents now held by Fleet Connect (6,429,810; 6,549,583; 6,633,616). The '810 patent generally relates to a system for tracking the status of shipping containers—including its physical location and surrounding environmental conditions, as well as when the container is loaded onto an airplane—using an attached "electronics communications unit". The patent names as its sole inventor Mark De Roche, who identifies himself as the CTO and founder of Aerofex, a California company "developing a portfolio of technologies that are enablers for aerial utility and urban air mobility". Aerofex assigned the '810 patent to an IV affiliate in April 2007. The '583 and '616 patents generally relate to orthogonal frequency division multiplexed (OFDM) wireless signal tracking. Both patents originated with Magis Networks, a wireless networking startup that filed for bankruptcy in December 2003. They passed through Sanyo Semiconductor (later acquired by ON Semi), as well as another company formed by one of Magis's founders (Clarence Buckner), M2 Networks, the demise of which led to IV acquiring the assets in August 2008.
Fleet Connect accuses Melton Truck Lines of infringing a single patent (7,260,153) generally related to multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) wireless communications. It issued in August 2007 to MIMOpro Limited, an Israeli company of uncertain operations, also moving to an IV affiliate in August 2008.
Finally, Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits is accused of infringing two patents (7,463,896; 7,536,189). The '896 patent generally relates to tracking the location of a vehicle and issued in December 2008 to its named inventor, Richard B. Himmelstein, as part of an 18-member family with members dated between November 2003 and January 2019. The '189 patent belongs to the same family but broadly concerns sending an "advisory communication" to one or more "remote units" operated by the same user (with said units comprising either a landline phone or cellular phone), where those "remote units" that receive the "advisory communication" are filtered based on their physical locations. A 2012 assignment transferred ownership of the family to an IV affiliate.
Several of these defendants are identified in business relationships with Omnitracs through case studies published on that company's public website. Omnitracs itself is not named as a defendant by Fleet Connect.
Empire IP principals Daniel Mitry and Timothy Salmon created Fleet Connect on April 22, 2020. Affiliates of Empire IP have initiated over 45 litigation campaigns since late 2011, but recent years have seen a slowdown by the once prolific firm, with only two of those campaigns having been launched in 2018 (from affiliates Liberty Access Technologies Licensing LLC and Radio Integration Systems LLC); just one in 2019 (by Ghaly Devices LLC); and only one initiated this year (by affiliate AR Design Innovations, LLC) before the Fleet Connect filings.
In November 2019, Empire IP formed another Texas entity Motedata LLC, which, in January 2020, picked up from Motedata Inc. 11 of 15 members of a patent family generally related to "storing, retrieving, and managing data for tags that are associated in some matter to any type of object". Motedata has yet to file suit.
RPX has prepared a living report cataloging IV's divestitures to NPEs since January 1, 2016, as well as notable subsequent assertion campaigns arising from those transactions. 12/1, Dayton Freight, Northern District of Georgie; 12/1, Efficient Fleets, Melton Truck Lines, Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits, Western District of Texas; 12/1, Gentrifi, Eastern District of Texas.
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