ATLANTA – A retired Georgia Tech professor and engineer has filed his third federal lawsuit against a ride-sharing company, this time targeting Uber.
Stephen Dickerson, a mechanical engineer, said he developed the cellular and GPS technology that Uber, Lyft and the New York-based company Juno use to connect drivers, passengers and payments.
“Well, I really came up with it in 1999, in a sense of what’s patented, but I really started in 1975 with a vanpool system in Peachtree City,” Dickerson told Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr. “Now the applications are much broader than just Uber and Lyft. What the patent describes is the use of a cellphone to arrange for and assist and pay for urban trips.”
In a series of lawsuits filed between late 2018 and Friday, Dickerson and his Atlanta-based legal team say that technology was granted a patent in 2000. It was transferred to Dickerson’s Sandy Springs-based company, RideApp Inc. by 2015, several years after ride-sharing became popular.
That patent number and the circumstances are laid out in the similarly worded complaints centered around patent infringement.
“I had it transferred to RideApp only because Georgia Tech couldn’t enforce the patent. They wouldn’t enforce the patent,” Dickerson said. “Lawyers had come to me before the transfer and said we ought to enforce it.”
Dickerson retired from Georgia Tech in 1996 and served a yearlong stint will the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The lawsuits says that, in 2006, Dickerson donated $1.5 million to Georgia Tech research and an endowed professorship, using profits from another transit-related invention.
Dickerson told Carr he would use the money from any judgment to fund initiatives pushed by the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority Board, or the ATL, in which he was appointed a board membership in late 2018.
“Well, I hope in the long run, and the long run can be as little as five years, we do make a great contribution to reducing traffic congestion in Atlanta,” Dickerson said.
A spokesperson for Lyft declined to comment on the pending litigation Tuesday. That case has been transferred from a U.S. District Court in New York to a California federal court, where Lyft’s alleged liability is being challenged based on its pending acquisition of another company that is engineering the technology in question.
It’s also being heard in an area where the majority of Lyft’s engineers and documentation are housed.
Neither Uber nor Juno immediately responded to inquiries Channel 2 made on Tuesday.
The lawsuit against Uber was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.