A retired Georgia Institute of Technology engineering professor described as a “pioneer” in developing the idea of ridesharing sued Lyft Inc., claiming it infringed his patent for technology underlying the core of its business model.
According to the complaint, Lyft has failed to pay Stephen Dickerson for using his system integrating cellphones, global positioning system technology and automated billing, despite earning as much as $1 billion of annual revenue. Through his company RideApp Inc., Dickerson is seeking reasonable royalties and an injunction against San Francisco-based Lyft.
Lyft was valued last month at $15.1 billion after completing a $600 million financing round. A Lyft spokeswoman declined to comment.
The complaint called Dickerson a “pioneer in developing the radical idea” of ridesharing by conceiving his system in 1999, before cellphones from major manufacturers incorporated GPS technology and allowed for automated billing. Dickerson said he reacquired the patent this year, 17 years after assigning his rights to Georgia Tech, which made no effort over the years to stop infringements.
Jeffrey Toney, a partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres representing Dickerson, said his client thought Lyft might be infringing the patent when he began efforts to reclaim it.
“His vision is to integrate all forms of subscription transportation into a single cellphone application, so you can get where you’re going in the most efficient way,” Toney said. The case is RideApp Inc. v Lyft Inc., U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.
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