Patents, infrastructure, and payouts

Joe Mullin at Ars Technica reports on a disturbing new trend, public sector patent-trolling:

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.

While it appears that ArrivalStar may have a profitable run with this strategy, I have to believe that such suits will inevitably backfire.  Patent trolling is already a big problem that is getting increasing scrutiny, and going after local political entities like cities and transit authorities is only going to increase the amount of unfavorable scrutiny.