Route Guidance Systems LLC has sued Exxon Mobil ( 1:22-cv-02270), Grubhub ( 1:22-cv-02272), HERE Global ( 1:22-cv-02274), Honda ( 1:22-cv-02275), Huawei ( 1:22-cv-02276), Microsoft ( 1:22-cv-02278), MyPizza Technologies ( 1:22-cv-02373), Salesforce ( 1:22-cv-02279), and Verizon ( 1:22-cv-02281) over a single patent generally directed to a route guidance system for a vehicle. The wave of filings marks an expansion of the campaign that the Equitable IP Corporation plaintiff began back in 2019—and also a shift from a round of filings made as recently as February, from the District of Delaware to the Northern District of Illinois.
The sole patent-in-suit (6,917,876) issued to Teletrac Navman (UK) Ltd. (then named Trafficmaster) in July 2005 with an estimated priority date in May 2001. Its named inventors are David K. Martell and Jeffrey Solomon, both UK residents. Martell, the former CEO of Trafficmaster, identifies himself as having served as CEO of Chargemaster PLC—a UK supplier of infrastructure for charging electric vehicles—from October 2008 through July 2018. Solomon identifies himself as having been Trafficmaster's "director of technology" through July 2006 and as the Chief Technical Officer with Chargemaster from July 2018 through July 2020 after serving as its "Group Technical Director" from October 2008 through July 2018.
Equitable IP (through controlled entity Equitable IP Holdings, LLC) acquired the '876 patent from Teletrac Navman in January 2018, later transferring the patent to Route Guidance Systems (together with European and UK counterparts) on February 26, 2019. Honda is accused of infringement through the provision of vehicles with infotainment systems that offer features for navigating vehicles to destinations; Verizon, over vehicle telematics-based routing software with such features; and the others through mobile apps that provide such features. The accused apps include some directly focused on GPS navigation (HERE, Huawei, Microsoft, MyPizza Technologies), mobile reward apps with features for finding gas stations (Exxon), gig economy driver apps (Grubhub), and apps with other mapping/navigation features (Salesforce).
Formed in Delaware on February 15, 2019, Route Guidance Systems identifies Equitable IP as its parent entity in court disclosures. Equitable IP itself was formed in Nevada in 2015 by John T. Meli Jr., the former patent counsel for Rembrandt IP Management, LLC. After a period of stalled activity, Equitable IP experienced something of a resurgence beginning in 2020 and became the eighth most prolific NPE plaintiff of 2021, filing over 50 suits through a wide array of controlled entities, including Communication Interface Technologies LLC, Magnacharge LLC, and Scale Video Coding LLC.
Route Guidance Systems launched this litigation campaign in March 2019 with suits against Lyft and Uber, followed by GM (OnStar) and INRIX in February 2020, all in the District of Delaware. Each of those cases was dismissed prior to any substantive litigation in light of settlement, except for Lyft, which filed a July 2019 motion challenging the claims of the '876 patent under Alice, as patent-ineligibly directed to the abstract idea of "transmitting data to a vehicle". Route Guidance Systems opposed the motion, arguing that the claims "define inventions that significantly improve computer performance, particularly considering the limitations in computers and networking at the time of the invention", and submitting an expert declaration (from Jacob Sharony, an adjunct professor of electrical engineering at Columbia University). Lyft moved to strike that declaration, but the court never reached the merits, as the parties moved for a stay in light of a "resolution" to the case, which was dismissed with prejudice in January 2020.
INRIX and OnStar, sued the next month, picked up that Alice challenge to the claims of the '876 patent, INRIX articulating the putative abstract idea as "communicating navigation data"; OnStar, variously as "sending and receiving information (driving directions)"; "sending of driving directions to a vehicle driver"; and "sending, receiving, presenting driving instructions". Route Guidance System opposed, again attaching the Sharony declaration. District Judge Maryellen Noreika, at a December 2020 oral argument, declined to consider that declaration (attacked by only INRIX), ruling from the bench that the claims are directed to an abstract idea but survive at the second step of the Alice analysis, arguably "improv[ing] upon the prior conventional systems by using [a] selective on-demand communication channel to transmit route guidance data in short bursts", and surviving at least at this stage: "Given the constraints of Berkheimer and Aatrix, I cannot resolve this question today in light of Plaintiff's plausible factual allegations in the complaints that are uncontradicted by the '876 patent or anything else" properly considered at that point. Judge Noreika denied the challenges, with leave to renew them at summary judgment. Dismissals with prejudice followed in March 2021, INRIX's after the filing of a notice of settlement.
Enter 2022, with new Route Guidance Systems cases filed in Delaware this past February, against DoorDash, Maplebear (d/b/a Instacart), and Waitr. Little has happened in these suits to date, beyond assignment to Judge Noreika. The District of Delaware has made headlines of late, first through the elevation of District Judge Leonard P. Stark to the Federal Bench and more recently through new standing orders from Chief Judge Colm F. Connolly setting a much higher bar for corporate disclosures in his courtroom. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. recently nominated Fox Rothschild partner Gregory B. Williams to fill the vacancy created by Judge Stark's confirmation, but a backlog in case assignments and progression (in one of the busiest districts for patent litigation) is inevitable.
Route Guidance Systems's new complaints plead the following states of formation for the new defendants: Exxon Mobil (New Jersey), Grubhub (Delaware), HERE Global (the Netherlands), Honda (Japan, sued together with a Delaware subsidiary), Huawei (China), Microsoft (Washington), MyPizza Technologies (Delaware), Salesforce (Delaware), and Verizon (Delaware). The plaintiff nevertheless sued them all in the Northern District of Illinois, where the suits have been assigned to various district court judges—a one-page assessment for this campaign is available on RPX Insight. The NPE is again represented by Devlin Law Firm LLC. 5/2, Exxon Mobil, Grubhub, HERE Global, Honda, Huawei, Microsoft, Salesforce, Verizon, 5/5, MyPizza Technologies, Northern District of Illinois.
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