Patent Assertion Entities (PAE’s), more commonly known as Patent Trolls, have been a problem for the tech community for a number of years. Recently, they have started to branch out into suing retail companies, government agencies and other end users. On June 25th Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Ill) sent a letter to the FTC and released a report titled Trolling for a Public Trough: How Patent Assertion Entities Cost Tax Payers detailing how PAE’s are attacking the U.S. Post Office, city governments, utilities, and transit agencies including Metra in his district.
According to Dan Lipinski’s article, transit agencies are being sued by two notorious off-shore patent trolls — ArrivalStar S.A. and Melvino Technologies — over their use of GPS software that allows them to monitor the location of their trains/buses and to notify commuters when they will be arriving at specific stops. These companies have filed over 250 lawsuits against companies and agencies in the transportation industry. According to Lipinski’s report, because of the millions of dollars it could cost to defend a patent suit, these companies and agencies prefer not to litigate the case in court and instead “opt to quickly settle, agreeing to purchase licenses for fees reportedly ranging from $30,000 to $100,000”. Patent Trolls have brought suits against transit agencies in California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.
“The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has drastically narrowed the patent owned by ArrivalStar after Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a formal request to reexamine the patent’s legitimacy” was announced on Thursday in a ruling that will help to hopefully curb patent troll abuse in the future.
Denys Emmert is the Public Policy intern at SIIA. He has a degree in marketing and political science from Florida State University.