American businesses have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the midst of dealing with the economic fallout while implementing new health and safety protocols, they are being targeted by non-practicing entities (NPEs), also known as patent trolls, who hope to make a quick buck with litigation settlement shakedowns.
When businesses are hit with these lawsuits, resources that could be going to critical expenses, such as payroll and rent, are instead diverted to paying exorbitant legal costs. This predatory behavior isn’t new, but it's escalated during the crisis with more and more NPEs wielding bad patents against essential businesses and jeopardizing their ability to recover. Read more about the need to #StopBadPatents and #ProtectMainStreet. See here about ways to protect critical programs that review low quality patents. 


Case Studies


Employee-owned Iowa supermarket sued by NPE over QR codes: In April, Hy-Vee was sued by an NPE over a patent for Quick Response (QR) codes used on their promotional materials. While trying to steer local communities through the pandemic by providing safe access to groceries, the company was forced to contend with specious and resource-draining patent litigation. Over the last three years, the same NPE has targeted over 100 companies over their patents. Read more here.

Washington grocery chain sued by NPE over server patents: Albertson was sued by an NPE in July over three server patents offering a mobile app for customers. The mobile app was meant to allow customers to order delivery or schedule curbside pickup during a time when many sought contactless grocery shopping to avoid any chance of exposure. Learn more about this distracting lawsuit here.

NPE GreatGigz launched a litigation campaign against website job search services: During the pandemic, GreatGigz has targeted website job search services, important platforms for professionals that have only increased in popularity as a result of  record unemployment during the pandemic. So far, GreatGigz has sued LinkedIn, Angie's List, GrubHub, IAC, Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Freelancer Limited, and DoorDash. It is unnecessarily harmful to target food and grocery delivery services during a deathly pandemic, as well as employment services during an economic freefall, and much less both at once. Read more here.

NPE Symbology Innovations has sued over 200 companies: Patent predator Symbology Innovations has frivolously sued hundreds of companies over patents across sectors including, but certainly not limited to, retail, restaurants and banks. Many of these sectors were hit especially hard by COVID-19, making them all the more vulnerable to an NPE’s financially motivated targeting. Learn more here

Digi Portal sues Hyatt and Marriott despite suffering hotel industry: The hotel industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, NPE Digi Portal is pursuing hotel companies like Hyatt and Marriott through frivolous litigation, such as advertising patents, at a time when they are struggling to stay above water financially and create safe travel environments during a global health crisis.

NPE GreatGigz continued its litigation campaign, targeting Texas grocery store HEB: Pursuing yet another website job search service during an economic crisis, GreatGigz has sued HEB. A hometown favorite, HEB was founded in 1905 in Kerrville, Texas, and has embraced its strong Texan identity ever since. With more than 340 stores throughout Texas, HEB has over 100,000 employees. As if this suit wasn’t enough, GreatGigz also sued Austin-based food delivery company NeighborFavor Inc dba Favor Delivery, which HEB acquired in 2015. This on-demand delivery company, offering anything delivered in under an hour, is primed to serve as a safe option during a health pandemic, that is if NPEs keep their distance.

Hawk Technology sues Castle Retail over mobile app: Castle retail, the operating company of Cash Saver grocery stores in Tennessee who received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program earlier this year, was sued by Hawk Technology for using a mobile app to monitor video surveillance. Cash Saver utilizes a "source-to-shelf" pricing model that allows it to offer customers low prices on every item in the store and opens grocery stores in food deserts, which is particularly commendable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, Rick James, the CEO of Castle Retail Group and chairman of the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Stores Associations, has been purchasing grocery stores that are closing during the pandemic to ensure they remain open and able to serve communities. 

NPE Hawk Technology sues City of Mobile, Alabama: Hawk Technology also sued the city of Mobile, Alabama and Ladd Peebles Stadium, a 70-year-old municipal-run stadium and home to the University of South Alabama football team, alleging that they infringed on their video surveillance patent by using an Eagle Eye surveillance system. Hawk has sought, among other relief, that declatory judgement be made in its favor, as well as awards for damages, costs and fees. Mobile's story is an unecpected example of how COVID-19, coupled with predatory NPEs, has brought financial ruin to small towns.

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