InComm Inc., an Atlanta-based prepaid card marketer, has sued Blackhawk Network in federal court, charging Blackhawk with patent infringement. InComm accused   Blackhawk, a Pleasanton, Calif.-based prepaid card and payments network, of infringing on InComm's 439 patent, which is a computer-implemented method for processing stored-value card transaction requests, according to the lawsuit, which InComm filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Madison, Wis. The lawsuit says the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office legally issued the patent to e2Interactive Inc., InComm's Atlanta-based parent company, Aug. 25. In the lawsuit, InComm accused Blackhawk of infringing on its patent through operation of Blackhawk Network's Gift Card Mall. The malls, which are placed near cash registers, are found in supermarkets operated by Safeway Inc., Blackhawk Network's parent company.  Safeway, which also is based in Pleasanton, is the nation's third-largest supermarket chain. InComm said it mailed a letter July 31 to Blackhawk, warning the company that it was infringing on InComm's patent. "Blackhawk's infringement has been and continues to be deliberate, willful and intentional, and with knowledge of the existence of the 439 patent, and plaintiffs accordingly are entitled to recover enhanced damages as well as attorney fees and other expenses of litigation," InComm's attorneys said in the lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks to permanently stop Blackhawk Network from infringing on the patent. Blackhawk Network's spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit, and InComm's spokespersons did not return two calls for comment. InComm has 150,000 prepaid card-reload locations, according to ATM&Debit News, a CardLine sister publication. Blackhawk Network has 60,000 reload locations, according to the ATM&Debit News EFT Data Book. Both companies, however, face the same growth problem because most of their prepaid reload locations are found in retail environments, which offer high penetration into the market. But only so many locations exist, said Gwenn Bezard, research director for Aite Group, LLC, the Boston-based consulting firm.

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