For several years now, a curious company called ArrivalStar – which has no website, appears to produce nothing, and is oddly registered in Luxembourg – has been systematically suing public transit agencies in the United States. As we wrote last April, the company holds a collection of dubious patents tied to the technology of tracking vehicles in motion. And it has been using them to claim patent infringement by transit agencies that ... track vehicles in motion.
Any agency electronically monitoring its own buses and trains, or producing apps for riders to track them, has been at risk of receiving a foreboding letter from these people. It's a pretty classic patent troll story, but with a taxpayer twist. In this case, the company holding the patents has been targeting (among many others) cash-strapped public agencies that can least afford to pay them off, but that are also most likely to avoid litigation.
These transit agencies have understandably had a hard time banding together against ArrivalStar – anyone who signs a settlement with the company can't say much about it. Now, however, the American Public Transportation Association is countersuing on their behalf in federal court. APTA filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in the Southern District of New York trying to halt what it calls "frivolous" patent suits by ArrivalStar and its affiliate, Melvino Technologies Limited. APTA is arguing not only that ArrivalStar's patents should be invalidated, but also that public agencies are protected from such suits by the 11th Amendment.