In a continued attack on debit and credit card rewards programs, TuitionFund LLC filed an infringement action in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee naming thirteen financial services industry defendants.24 This is the second such suit filed by TuitionFund. The first, filed in the same court in January 2011, accused rewards programs offered by SunTrust and Regions banks, along with implementation partners, of infringing three patents held by TuitionFund.25 The asserted patents in both lawsuits include U.S. Patent No. 7,499,872, entitled “Methods and Systems for Applying Rebates to Higher Education”; U.S. Patent No. 7,653,572, entitled “Methods and Systems for Providing a Rebate Program”; and U.S. Patent No. 7,899,704, entitled “Methods and Systems for Providing a Merchant Funded Rebate Program” (collectively, the “Patents-in-Suit”). In April 2011, the court issued a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) preventing defendants from challenging the validity of the Patents-in-Suit, to include by filing a request for reexamination. At a hearing two days later, the court dissolved the TRO and denied TuitionFund’s request for a Preliminary Injunction. Motions to Sever, Transfer and Dismiss are pending in the January action.
TuitionFund appears to exist for a purpose other than licensing these patents, including providing higher education funding assistance to American families without regard to background or financial status.26 The TuitionFund program deposits “rewards” into a cardholder’s account when a registered debit or credit card is used at a participating merchant. The “rewards” are deposited into a savings account, applied directly against a student loan account, or donated to a charitable organization associated with a college or university.