Tech battle: Omnitracs claims Platform Science infringed on its technology patents

Omnitracs sues Platform Science

Omnitracs has filed a lawsuit against Platform Science in the Southern District of California, alleging that Platform Science has infringed upon its technology patents.

In the suit, Omnitracs LLC et al v. Platform Science Inc., Omnitracs alleges that Platform Science has violated seven Omnitracs patents. Omnitracs is seeking a jury trial. The suit was filed on Tuesday.

Omnitracs, the dominant onboard platform for the for-hire trucking space, has been fighting a number of new startups in recent years that range from bluetooth-enabled devices targeted to small fleets from Keep Truckin and Samsara, to enterprise-grade technologies that intend to create an onboard computing omnibus like Platform Science’s platform. 

Omnitracs was once a part of Qualcomm, a leading provider of telecommunications technology and patents that govern a large part of the modern communications infrastructure and devices. Qualcomm has a track record of filing lawsuits to protect market share. 

Vista Equity Partners acquired Omnitracs in 2013 and it has remained a part of their private equity portfolio since. According to industry sources, Vista has tried to sell Omnitracs a few times since acquiring the company, most recently in 2019 for a reported $2B. The private equity firm has been unsuccessful so far in finding a buyer that would pay for the storied company. Meanwhile, upstart Samsara’s valuation eclipsed Omintracs at $3.4B. 

Curious timing

The timing of the filing of Omnitracs’ lawsuit against Platform Science is just two weeks after Platform Science announced a partnership with Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), announced at FreightWaves LIVE. The partnership includes an investment from DTNA in Platform Science and a plan to include Platform Science’s technology at the point of vehicle production. 

Implementing the solution as the default offering when the truck is produced means that  Platform Science has the opportunity to become a default ELD and telecommunications platform for a large percentage of the Class 8 trucking industry. Daimler Trucks North America, through it’s Freightliner and Western Star subsidiaries, is the largest manufacturer of Class 8 trucks in North America, with about 40% market share. 

Large fleets, which tend to focus on total cost of ownership when buying new trucks, often prefer Freightliner trucks because of their operating efficiency and manufacturing quality. This is the market which Omnitracs has historically dominated and is likely threatened by a Daimler/Platform Science partnership. 

A spokesperson for Platform Science said they are aware of the complaint but would have no comment at this time.

The allegations

Omnitracs alleges that patents it holds related to wireless data transfer and display devices; methods of monitoring location; recording and communicating vehicle and driver information including electronic logging information through a fleet vehicle management system to a remote device; turning information into formatted messages; remotely monitoring vehicles; and real-time alert notifications are among those violated.

Omnitracs claims that Platform Science’s Connected Vehicle platform, Platform Science Express, and Platform Science Enterprise are among the solutions that utilize these technologies.

“The decision to file this complaint was not taken lightly. Omnitracs’ 35-year track record of success as a leading provider of technology and industry-leading solutions is a result of its commitment to, and investment in, research and development and innovation. As a technology provider, our Intellectual Property is one of our most valuable assets,” an Omnitracs representative said in an emailed statement to FreightWaves.

“Platform Science was founded by Jack Kennedy, Omnitracs’ former president, and much of Platform Science’s leadership team is made up of former Omnitracs employees,” the statement continued. “Omnitracs concluded that it needed to defend its Intellectual Property to prevent Platform Science from benefiting from the intentional sale of products that infringe on Omnitracs’ intellectual property and patent rights. As noted in the complaint, the accused products in this case include, but are not limited to, Platform Science’s Connected Vehicle Platform, Platform Science Express, and Platform Science Enterprise and the associated hardware and software.”

The Connected Vehicle Platform offers fleet management technology that allows a vehicle to become an internet of things (IoT) hub with connected devices. “All devices on the vehicle can be unified on a single data plan and can communicate with each other via the device WiFi/BT/IO connectivity,” Platform Science claims.

Platform Science Express offers an “out-of-the-box solution that offers core telematics functionality” while Enterprise is a “configurable solution that supports dynamic hardware configurations, partner integrations and extends to ecosystem innovations.

Omnitracs attached a Platform Science web page describing these technologies as evidence. It also included web pages that include Platform Science’s fleet management apps and the use of Ultramax Glass, which is a windshield-mounted antenna for connectivity.

The suit is filled with 14 exhibits in all detailing Omnitracs’ technologies and the suspected violations of those patents by Platform Science.

In October 2019, Omnitracs announced the general availability of the Omnitracs One platform, an enterprise-grade mobility platform. The platform offers access to third-party app integrations, “mobile and dedicated hardware for device independence,” and “exchangeable data across a fleet’s operations,” Omnitracs said in a release.

Kennedy previously served as president of Qualcomm Enterprise Services (QES), which eventually became Omnitracs. Omnitracs was sold by Qualcomm to Vista Equity Partners in 2013 for $800 million. Omnitracs acquired XRS in 2014.

The case has been assigned to Judge Janis L. Sammartino.