After suing dozens of transit agencies and hundreds of private companies, patent troll company ArrivalStar could be hitting the wall. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has drastically narrowed the patent owned by the company after the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a formal request to reexamine the patent’s legitimacy. The American Public Transit Association also filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to halt frivolous patent infringement claims against public transit systems throughout the country and claiming that ArrivalStar’s lawsuits are invalid under the 11th Amendment.
A bipartisan bill pending in a U.S. House committee would put “patent trolls” on the hook for defendants’ legal costs, making unfounded patent-infringement suits less attractive.
In April, SSTI reported that a firm called ArrivalStar was asserting patent rights to a bus-arrival announcement system it claims to have invented, demanding that transit agencies and delivery companies pay for the right to use bus- and train-arrival apps and other tracking systems. Relief may be on the way. This month the San Francisco-based Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) challenged ArrivalStar’s patent in a request to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
For years, technology companies have battled “patent trolls,” individuals and firms that do not produce products, but instead sue to assert patent rights to various innovations. Now at least one patent troll is targeting U.S. public transit agencies, over bus- and train-tracking applications the agencies make available to customers via smartphones and the Web. The apps, now in common use, represent significant innovation for transit agencies and a boon to riders. But the lawsuits are a legal and financial nightmare for cash-strapped transit operators.