It was announced today that 30 of the nation’s largest and technically sophisticated companies in the retail industry, allied health care industry, insurance industry, hospitality industry, energy/utility industry, and financial services industry have purchased licenses under the patent portfolio held by Ronald A. Katz Technology Licensing, L.P. and licensed through A2D, L.P.
These separate licenses cover services offered by each of the companies in specific fields of use such as “Automated Health Care Services”, “Energy and Utility Services”, “Product/Service Support” and “Financial Services Call Processing”. These services, including customer service and prescription refill services are delivered through automated systems as well as the combination of automated systems and live agents. Other terms of the licenses were not disclosed.
The companies include:
- Atmos Energy Corporation, the country's largest natural gas-only distributor (NYSE: ATO);
- Avon Products, Inc., a leading global beauty company and the world's largest direct seller (NYSE: AVP);
- Ceridian Corporation, an information services company serving businesses and employees in the United States, Canada and Europe (NYSE: CEN);
- Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc., a subsidiary of one of the nation's largest investor-owned energy companies;
- Countrywide Financial Corporation, a diversified financial services provider and a member of the S&P 500, Forbes 2000, and Fortune 500 (NYSE: CFC);
- Discover Financial Services, the company which operates the Discover Card with more than 50 million cardmembers as well as the Discover Network;
- DTE Energy Company, a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide (NYSE:DTE);
- Express Scripts;
- Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Michigan (NYSE: F);
- GMAC LLC, a leading, global financial services company operating in 40 countries;
- Hilton Hotels Corporation;
- ING North America Insurance Corp. (NYSE:ING) whose affiliate ING DIRECT is the nation's fourth-largest savings bank and largest online bank
- The Jean Coutu Group (PJC) USA, Inc., the 4th largest drugstore chain in the country operating in 18 states on the east coast;
- Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, a mutually owned financial protection, accumulation and income management company headquartered in Springfield, Mass.;
- Morgan Stanley, a leading global financial services firm providing a wide range of investment banking, securities, investment management and wealth management services (NYSE: MS);
- Northeast Utilities, a Fortune 500 energy company based in Connecticut (NYSE: NU);
- Peoples Energy Corporation, a diversified energy company;
- Progress Energy, Inc., a Fortune 250 diversified energy company with more than 23,000 megawatts of generation capacity and $10 billion in annual revenues (NYSE: PGN);
- Safeco Corporation, a Fortune 500 property and casualty insurance company;
- Safeway Inc., a Fortune 50 company and one of the largest food and drug retailers in North America (NYSE: SWY);
- Sierra Pacific Resources, a holding company whose principal subsidiaries are Nevada Power Company, the electric utility for most of southern Nevada, and Sierra Pacific Power Company, which serves northern Nevada and the Lake Tahoe area of California (NYSE: SRP);
- SUPERVALU INC., one of the largest companies in the United States grocery channel (NYSE:SVU) and its affiliates, New Albertson’s Inc. and Albertson’s LLC;
- SymetraSM Life Insurance Co., a company with 2 million customers based in Bellevue, WA;
- Target Corporation;
- United National Corporation, a financial services company headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota;
- Walgreen Co. the nation's largest drugstore chain in terms of sales (NYSE, NASDAQ: WAG);
- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the world's largest retailer (NYSE: WMT);
- WellPoint, Inc., an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, (NYSE: WLP);
- Zions Bancorporation, one of the nation's premier financial services companies (Nasdaq: ZION).
The technologies in the licensed patents were invented by Ronald A. Katz. His pioneering efforts created one of the first, if not the first, inbound computerized call centers in 1961 when he formed Telecredit, Inc., the nation’s first on-line real time credit and check cashing authorization system. He was awarded a patent as co-inventor of that technology. In the mid 1980s, Mr. Katz started work on these interactive call processing patents. Within a few years, he entered into a joint venture with American Express to implement the technologies on an unprecedented scale, drawing up plans for ten thousand voice response ports to be located in the center of the United States. By 1989, the company that was his brainchild had become “Call Interactive” a joint venture between American Express Information Services Company and AT&T. This company, in its various forms, has been practicing the technologies found in this group of patents continuously since 1988. Today, the company is known as First Data Voice Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of First Data Corporation.
The patents held by Ronald A. Katz Technology Licensing, L.P., cover a wide range of interactive technology including automated forms of: customer service, securities trading, merchandising, prepaid services, prescription refill service, telephone conferences, registration, home shopping, as well as functions involved in securing information from databases by telephone, interactive cable transactions, and various other uses of toll free and local numbers.
“It is extremely important to us that all Progress Energy customers are able reach us any time, night or day, to report an outage or receive information from us. We have added call centers and improved all of our call handling technologies in terms of both capacity and sophistication in order to ensure that this is the case. The technologies in this portfolio of patents are an important part of these call processing improvements,” said Mike Hughes, spokesperson for Progress Energy, Inc.
"We want to be available to our customers 24/7 and with toll free numbers like 888-464-7868, account holders can reach us, any time, night or day. Through a sophisticated combination of quick automated services and carefully trained agents who are available to handle issues around the clock, callers can report claims, get account information or change their PIN– easily and swiftly. The technologies in this portfolio of patents have significantly helped us implement this type of call processing which keeps us close to our customers," said Steve Van Wyk, Chief Information Officer, ING North America Insurance Corp.
"Zions Bancorporation has affiliate banks located in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington offering their customers the highest level of customer service through live consultation with highly trained agents and 24 hour access to account information via automated phone services. The technology in these patents facilitates these customer service processes," said Jeff S. Newman, Zions Management Services Company.
“Many of our leading pharmacies such as Acme, bigg’s, Cub, Osco, Savon, Shop ‘n Save, and Supervalu offer “Express Prescription Refill” services or “EASYFILL” services over the phone, which utilize many of the inventions in this portfolio of patents. Customers can, for example, dial in 24 hours a day, enter their prescription number and the last four digits of their phone number in order to quickly request a refill of their prescription. This is an important group of patents,” said Haley Meyer, Corporate Communications, SUPERVALU INC.
Ronald A. Katz stated, “As just one example of the use of this portfolio, we estimate that there are over one billion automated prescription refill requests being processed over the phone each year in North America alone, virtually all of which utilize technology claimed in the Katz patents. We welcome this extraordinary group of companies to the large number of companies with demonstrated intellectual property expertise who have purchased licenses under this portfolio in order to cover the automated call processing used in their own customer support operations.”
There are over 200 companies with rights under this portfolio, including over 25 energy and utility companies. Companies with license rights under this portfolio include: Advanta Corp., Alltel Corporation, American Century, American Express, Automatic Data Processing, Inc., AT&T Corp., Bank of America Corporation, BB&T Corporation, Capital One Services, Inc., Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless, Certegy, Inc., Dell Inc., Cullen/Frost Bankers, Inc., Delta Air Lines, Inc., Edward D. Jones & Co., L.P., Equifax, Inc., Excel Communications, Inc., First Data Corporation, First National Bank of Omaha, First Tennessee National Corporation, The Gallup Organization, Hewlett-Packard Company, Home Shopping Network, Inc., Household International, Inc., HSBC Bank USA, International Business Machines (IBM), KeyCorp, LaSalle Bank Corporation, M&T Bank Corporation, Marriott International, Inc., MCI, Inc., Mediacom Communications Corporation, Mellon Financial Corporation, Merck & Co., Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., Metris Companies, Inc., Microsoft, MoneyGram Payment Systems, Inc., Nationwide, OppenheimerFunds, Inc., People’s Bank, PetMed Express, Inc., The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., Principal Financial Group, Inc., Prudential Financial, Inc., QVC, Inc., Sears, Roebuck and Co., Shop At Home, Inc., Sprint Corporation, SouthTrust Bank, Sunoco, Inc., Synovus, SunTrust Banks, Inc., Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation, T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., The Vanguard Group, Inc., Verizon California, Inc. and its affiliates, Wachovia Corporation, and Wells Fargo & Company.