MacroSolve Inc., a Tulsa, Okla.-based company that describes itself as a “pioneer in delivering mobile apps, technologies and solutions to businesses and government,” sued 10 major travel companies for patent infringement.
The company was awarded a patent in October 2010 that “addresses mobile information collection systems across all wireless networks, smartphones, tablets and rugged mobile devices, regardless of carrier and manufacturer.”
The patent, U.S. 7,822,816, “covers fundamental technology in the mobile application space utilized by multiple companies.”
MacroSolve originally filed for the patent in 2002, but its application was amended several times.
The patent gives MacroSolve the rights to the process by which an application is sent to be downloaded to mobile devices, collects information from users and sends it back to a central database. That covers any existing or future mobile app that sends data from the app user back to the makers or administrators of the app.
The travel companies are American Airlines, Avis Rent A Car System, Continental Airlines, the Hertz Corp., Hipmunk Inc., Hotels.com, Priceline.com, Southwest Airlines, Travelocity.com and United Air Lines.
TTU contacted several of the companies for comment, but, as is the norm with pending litigation, they declined.
With the latest lawsuits, filed in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas, MacroSolve has sued 47 companies for patent infringement, including AT&T, Citigroup and Dell. It has identified an additional 250 companies as potential targets.
After it was awarded the patent, MacroSolve said it was “immediately pursuing the monetization of this patent and its other IP assets and is currently in discussions with several companies in the mobile communications market.”
In an Oct. 18, 2011, letter to shareholders, the company said the patent monetization efforts were part of its strategy for revenue growth.
M-CAM, a patent consultancy, said that in the 1990s, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was deluged with applications for software patents. There was considerable confusion, and patents for the same “invention” were often granted to different companies.
That has spawned a flood of lawsuits, often targeting large companies such as Apple and Dell. So many of the lawsuits have been filed in the Texas Eastern court that M-CAM has designated the tracking of them as a “project.”
It is often more expedient to settle out of court and/or pay a licensing fee to the plaintiff.
Some European developers have withdrawn from the U.S. market due to the threat of litigation.
M-CAM chairman Dr. David E. Martin called MacroSolve’s patent “an abysmal monument to the complete failure of the patent system.”
In an e-mail, Martin said that a 2006 examination of MacroSoft’s patentability “turned on keyword searches with innovative terms like ‘survey,’ ‘poll,’ ‘collect’ and ‘gather.’”
The patent is “the by-product of professional neglect on the part of a patent examiner and raw abuse of the same on the part of the applicant,” he said.
“There are 467 patents that directly limit or obviate their patent claims, none of which were considered by the patent office or introduced as evidence by the applicant during prosecution.”