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Excentus Corp., provider of the fuelperks!® gasoline rewards program, has filed a lawsuit against Safeway, Inc. and the company’s subsidiaries Blackhawk Network, Inc.; Blackhawk Marketing, LLC.; and Randalls/Tom Thumb in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Abilene, claiming willful and deliberate patent infringement and the misappropriation and theft of trade secrets, among other allegations. The suit seeks injunctive and equitable relief, in addition to unspecified damages.
According to Excentus, during 2006 and 2007, Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway, through its Blackhawk subsidiaries, tried to acquire Excentus, as well as patents owned by Auto-Gas Systems, Inc., which are now owned by Excentus. The suit claims that after Blackhawk failed to complete a transaction with either party, Safeway wrongfully used Excentus’ patents, trade secrets and confidential information to create its own fuel rewards program, PowerPump Rewards. Excentus’ complaint maintains that PowerPump Rewards is a willful and deliberate infringement of four Excentus-owned patents.
“We believe our patent-protected fuelperks! rewards program is the most powerful customer loyalty program ever offered in the United States,” said Dickson Perry, president and CEO of Irving, Texas-based Excentus. “We have made significant investments over the last 10 years to develop our world-class technology, services and expertise, and acquire the related trademarks and patents, all of which are valuable components of the fuelperks! program and assets of our company. When faced with situations like this one with Safeway, we are prepared to take the necessary steps to assure our assets and interests are protected.”
At presstime, Safeway had not responded to a request for comment on the matter by Progressive Grocer.
All of Excentus’ current and pending patents concern the issuance and redemption of various types and forms of fuel discounts as rewards for different consumer behaviors, along with the networking of retailers or other organizations and the clearing, reporting and settlement of the funding of fuel discounts among various parties.