Giant Eagle Sued Over Fuelperks Technology
A Texas technology company is suing Giant Eagle Inc. over sales of up to $1 billion tied to the Pittsburgh-based supermarket chain’s popular Fuelperks! gas discount program, charging the grocer infringed on its patents.
Dallas-based Excentus Corp., which said it provided software to run the Fuelperks gas and grocery cross-marketing program, alleges in a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh that Giant Eagle never obtained a license to use its technology despite a decade-long business relationship, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
Giant Eagle spokesman Dan Donovan told the PG that the claims are similar to those Excentus made in a lawsuit filed in Texas, which he said was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. “We believe that the recent claims are wholly without merit, and our expectation is that they will be dismissed in this instance as well,” Donovan said.
Excentus could not be reached for comment.
Giant Eagle confirmed this week that it stopped offering free diabetes prescription medications and antibiotics in mid-January at in-store pharmacies. Further, Giant Eagle intends to end its Foodperks! grocery savings plan tied to fuel purchases on Feb. 13.
The lawsuit said Giant Eagle began talking to Excentus in 2001 about a gas loyalty rewards program and “was so impressed with the Excentus technology and future plans” that it became one of Excentus’ largest shareholders after investments in 2004 and 2005.
David Shapira, Giant Eagle’s executive chairman, and Daniel Shapira, one of the owners of the privately held company, joined the Excentus board. The relationship deteriorated when Giant Eagle allegedly didn't share information, including details about its growing gift card sales tied to Fuelperks, according to published reports. By 2008, Giant Eagle’s sales of other retailers' gift cards, promoted through Fuelperks, reached $500 million to $1 billion, Excentus said in the lawsuit.
“While continuing to use the Excentus patents without a license, Giant Eagle also threatened to form its own coalition through use of its gift card sales” to compete with Excentus’ plan, the plaintiff alleged. Excentus is asking the court to force Giant Eagle to turn over profit earned as a result.