Los Angeles based Hailo Technologies LLC, which also operates under the name Bring, has sued both Uber and Lyft separately over alleged patent infringement of U.S. Patent No. 5,973,619, entitled Automated Vehicle Dispatch and Payment Honoring System. This patent, filed by Alexis Paredes in 1997, and granted in 1999, relates to a “computerized system with specialized software which enables a user to select a particular Taxi or vehicular transport company from a menu, along with the desired destination and number of passengers traveling.” In addition to these features, the Hailo system also gives the user an estimate of the fare and the available payment options based on the vehicle service company chosen.

Uber and Lyft famously use smartphone and app technology for their ride-sharing services. Hailo does not claim to have invented smartphone-based ride-sharing services altogether as such technology was not available 18 years ago when Hailo patented their system. Rather, the lawsuit’s focus is around the methods used to obtain an idea. In the complaint, Hailo stated their system is “[a] method as implemented on a computer system for use by a consumer, said method for delivering instructional messages to said consumer regarding private transportation companies and estimated costs for hiring said transportation company for transporting said consumer to listed destinations.” The steps involved when using Hailo’s system include the following: (1) the system locates the taxi/vehicle company and displays it for the user to select; (2) the system prompts the user to insert the number of passengers; (3) the user chooses a destination based on a graphic illustration; (4) the fare estimate is displayed based on the number of passengers and destination along with alternative forms of payment accepted by the vehicle service; (5) the call is placed for the ride service to be dispatched; (6) the arrival time of the vehicle is estimated.

Hailo alleged the methods in which Uber and Lyft users request a ride is almost identical to process executed by their system. Hailo detailed how both Uber and Lyft allow a user to select a vehicle from a graphical illustration based on the vehicle’s proximity to the user. The Uber and Lyft systems (according to Hailo) then prompt the user to enter the number of seats needed. Both systems provide a fare estimation and payment option. Once the user hits request on the app, a graphical illustration displays the estimated arrival time of the vehicle along with a real-time graphical display of the vehicle in comparison to the user.

It is important to note that an alleged infringer need only execute all of the steps/components of a patent holder’s claims in order to commit patent infringement. It is not the case that a patent need to discuss all of the various features performed by would-be infringers, in this case Uber and Lyft, in order to commit patent infringement. The key questions are i) whether Uber and Lyft performed all of the steps/components contained within the claims of the Hailo patent and; ii) whether, ultimately, the Hailo patent is valid.

Unfortunately for Uber this is not the only intellectual property dispute they are involved with. Uber was recently in the news as they were sued by Waymo, the Alphabet subsidiary now handling Google’s self-driving car project. We previously wrote that the lawsuit filed by Waymo alleged Otto, a self-driving truck company, purchased by Uber, stole trade secrets from Google. In the lawsuit, Waymo purported that former Google employee, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files related to Waymo’s various hardware systems and absconded with them when he left for Otto.

It will be interesting to see how these cases play out, especially since it has been reported that Waymo is teaming up with Lyft, Uber’s direct competitor, to test autonomous vehicles.

Suiter Swantz IP is a full-service intellectual property law firm serving all of Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. If you have any intellectual property questions or need assistance with any patent, trademark or copyright matters and would like to speak to one of our patent attorneys please feel free to contact us.