Kroger goes to court over fuel program patent

CINCINNATI Kroger has filed a federal suit against Excentus Corp., which has demanded the grocer obtain a license to expand its fuel rewards program to Shell stations, according to the Business Courier of Cincinnati.

Excentus holds the patents to the technology associated with many retailers’ fuel rewards programs. Kroger is asking the court to declare Excentus’ patents invalid with regard to its discount program.

The grocer announced last month that it was extending its Kroger rewards program, in which customers can receive a fuel discount for every $100 they spend on groceries to selected Shell stations. The discount had previously applied only to fuel purchased at Kroger stations.

Court documents show that in 2009 Excentus asserted that Kroger’s fuel rewards program infringed on eight of the company’s patents and demanded that Kroger take a license under the Excentus patents. According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, negotiations to avoid litigation were not successful.

In June 2009 Excentus filed a patent infringement action against Safeway on similar grounds.

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