Familiar Named Inventor Hits Automakers’ Collision Warning and Automatic Braking Systems

May 31, 2020

Early last week, RPX pointed to a jump in patent infringement suits in the Automotive market sector; by the end of the week, JG Technologies LLC had joined the fray, filing a barrage of lawsuits against automakers, accusing BMW (2:20-cv-00163), FCA (2:20-cv-00164), Ford (2:20-cv-00165), GM (2:20-cv-00166), Honda (2:20-cv-00167), Hyundai (2:20-cv-00168), Jaguar Land Rover (2:20-cv-00169), Mercedes-Benz (2:20-cv-00170), Nissan (2:20-cv-00171), Tesla (2:20-cv-00172), Toyota (2:20-cv-00173), Volkswagen (2:20-cv-00174), and Volvo (2:20-cv-00175). A single patent, generally related to detecting an object using “electromagnetic wave attenuation patterns”, is asserted. The complaint recounts the development of radar systems to identify “enemy aircraft, particularly stealth aircraft”, dating back to World War II. The plaintiff—which is controlled by a named inventor familiar to those in the patent monetization business—targets the automakers’ collision warning systems, pedestrian/vehicle detection systems, automatic braking systems, etc.

The asserted patent (7,952,511) issued to James L. Geer, its sole named inventor, in May 2011, the earliest of a four-member family with issue dates continuing through January 2017. Geer transferred the family to JG Technologies on March 27, 2020, 15 days after the entity’s formation in Alabama. JG Technologies pleads that Geer is a member of the plaintiff, which emphasizes claims 1 and 15 of the ‘511 patent in its complaint.

Geer is no stranger to patent litigation. He is also the founder of Mimzi, LLC, another Alabama entity, this one formed in April 2017. Mimzi is litigating a Geer patent in a campaign of its own, begun in November 2018 with cases filed against Foursquare Labs and Trip Advisor, with suits against AcerASUSTek, and HTC following in February 2019. In its complaints, Mimzi characterizes Geer as a “consummate forward-thinker and innovator” who developed, during the Gulf War, “a way to detect and track enemy stealth aircraft” that the US Air Force declared a national secret, Geer being barred “from even talking about his invention”. State records associate Geer with four Alabama entities: Mimzi; Anti-Stealth, LLC (formed in July 2008 and dissolved in December 2013); and Executive Technologies, Inc. (formed in December 1984). Mimzi alleges in its complaints that Executive Technologies developed a “document search engine”, offering SearchExpress, a product that “includes document management, searching and scanning solutions for businesses”.

The patent asserted by Mimzi generally relates to returning location-based information from a “social network database” in response to a spoken request. It survived an Alice challenge earlier this year in the District of Delaware (see here for details), but the cases in the campaign have subsequently been stayed in light of the institution of a trial in response to multiple petitions for inter partes review, one each filed by Foursquare Labs (IPR2019-01287); Trip Advisor (IPR2019-01080); and Acer, Alphabet (Google), ASUSTek, HTC, and Microsoft (IPR2019-01516). The February 2019 cases target the voice response functionality provided by either Google or Microsoft in mobile devices made and/or sold by Acer, ASUSTek, or HTC.

Mimzi provides a “further example of Mr. Geer’s forward-thinking” by citing “his several U.S. patents, originally filed in the 1990s, that are directed to the DVRs that are used today for recording multiple television shows”. SynchView Technologies, LLC, an NPE affiliated with Georgia-based monetization firm IP Investments Group LLC (d/b/a IPinvestments Group), is now asserting one of those patents in litigation. Texas state records identify Geer as the governing person for Timesurf, LLC, an entity formed in that state with original managers Geer and Ivan Darius, the named inventors on two DVR patents that were assigned to Intellectual Ventures LLC (IV) in July 2007. SynchView acquired them from IV in September 2017 (in the same month that Geer assigned the ‘981 patent to Mimzi). Further information about the SynchView campaign can be read at “IPinvestments Group Affiliate Expands DVR Campaign, Hitting Altice in New York and Hulu in Texas” (February 2019).

Last week RPX reported on a threefold bump in patent infringement suits in the Automotive market sector in the first few months of 2020 over the same period last year. With the JG Technologies suits, as well as others, that trend appears to have continued through May. 5/31, Eastern District of Texas.

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