Of course, Bridgetown would attract trolls: Portland TriMet TransitTracker under patent troll attack

Apparently, it’s patent week on Silicon Florist.

Just caught wind of this one. Patent trolls are bad enough. But what about when they’re patent trolls that are going after taxpayer dollars? Well, it’s happening. Right here in Portland.

Patent holders will file a lawsuit about anything under the sun these days, but a man named Martin Jones has embraced an alarming new strategy—suing cash-strapped American cities over their bus-tracking systems.

The most recent suit was filed last week, claiming that Portland’s TransitTracker system infringes a patent owned by ArrivalStar, the patent-holding company that enforces Jones’ patents. Two more, filed in February, claim that transit systems in Cleveland, Ohio and Monterey, California infringe three ArrivalStar patents.

If you’re not familiar with TriMet TransitTracker, it’s technology designed to help you keep track of your next TriMet bus or train.

TriMet’s TransitTrackerā„¢ gives you real-time arrival information for buses and trains1, so you have a better idea of when your ride is coming. You can access it by phone, on the web or on a mobile device.

Are the other transit apps in the TriMet store, next?

I’m not a terribly big fan of the current state of the patent industry, as is. This makes me even less of one. A fan that is. Not a patent. I don’t think I’m patentable.

For more information, read the Ars Technica post.

(Hat tip @jkuramot)

  1. At the risk of reviving an old thread, the EFF is challenging the ArrivalStar patent (on grounds of prior art that was not considered when it was granted): https://www.eff.org/press/releases/eff-challenges-tracking-services-patent-used-threaten-cities-across-us

    I had forgotten whether Tri-Met had been hit by one of these, and found this article on a search to check.

  2. An idea is supposed to be non-obvious in order to be patentable. I, and I’m sure lots of other people, thought of GPS-based bus arrival information being available by phone long, long ago. That makes it obvious.

    Alas, some of us will take patentable inventions to the grave waiting for the patent system to be reformed in ways that prevent those inventions from being stolen and monopolized by money-backed corporations taking advantage of patent-system absurdities.

  3. It will be interesting to see how the city fights back. I don’t think they’re exactly novices at being sued.

  4. Watch out – according to Monsanto, life is patentable, and therefore YOU are patentable!

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