June 27, 2013 | By Julie Samuels

ArrivalStar: How to NOT Make Friends and Influence People

This is not a good week to be ArrivalStar.

First, we announced that the Patent Office had significantly narrowed one of ArrivalStar's favorite patents that it uses to target municipalities, civic organizations, and others who provide bus arrival data obtained via GPS.

Second, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) sued ArrivalStar, arguing that, among other things, its patents are invalid. (The '781 patent—the one narrowed as a result of our reexam—is one of the patents subject to that litigation.) We think the APTA has got it just right, and hope that the work we did to target one of ArrivalStar's patents will help in its important fight ahead. 

Third, Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, asking the FTC to focus any upcoming investigations on patent trolls like ArrivalStar. As the Congressman said:

I think this type of litigation undercuts the purpose of the U.S. patent system and exploits the fact that public agencies are a financial disadvantage.

Along with the letter, Rep. Lipinski released a report, called "Trolling for a Public Trough: How Patent Assertion Entities Cost Taxpayers." The report focuses on the ArrivalStar problem:

Patent lawsuits are risky and expensive, and cash-strapped public agencies can least afford to pay. That works in the favor of trolls hoping to force a settlement over a public entities' use of technology that was purchased to improve service for taxpayers.

Rep. Lipinski is exactly right. We should be protecting the use of technologies that improve our civic experiences, not making it harder for cities to implement those technologies.

Patent trolls in general are facing increased scrutiny lately; it looks like ArrivalStar's time on the hotseat has finally come. 

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