ABILENE (CN) – Irving-based Excentus Corp. claims Safeway and several subsidiaries used confidential information to create PowerPump Rewards, Safeway’s customer loyalty program that offers discounts on gasoline. Safeway operates 112 grocery stores in Texas under the Tom Thumb Food & Pharmacy and Randall’s Food Markets brands.
Excentus said that with Abilene-based Auto-Gas Systems it developed the computer systems and trade secrets for a gasoline discount program, for which Excentus owns the patents.
In 2006 and 2007, gift card supplier Blackhawk Network and its parent Safeway allegedly solicited the two companies as acquisitions. Excentus said the potential buyers spent about a year studying Excentus and Auto-Gas’ trade secrets, patents, computer systems and general know-how on a confidential basis.
Then in February 2007, Blackhawk entered into a letter of intent to acquire certain Auto-Gas patents and related intellectual property for $75 million, just days after Excentus declined Blackhawk’s offer to acquire Excentus, according to the complaint. Excentus said the buyers never closed on the Auto-Gas purchase, nor did they make a higher bid for Excentus.
“In the following months, Safeway, Blackhawk, and Safeway’s subsidiary Randall’s took the information they obtained on a confidential basis from Excentus and Auto-Gas and developed their fuel rewards program (called ‘PowerPump Rewards’), unlawfully infringing the patents and unlawfully using the technologies, trade secrets and confidential information of Excentus and Auto-Gas,” according to the federal complaint.
Excentus demands damages for patent infringement, misappropriation and theft of trade secrets and unfair competition. It is represented by Brett Govett with Fulbright Jaworski of Dallas.