Bill would rein in patent trolling of transit systems

By Eric Sundquist

A bipartisan bill pending in a U.S. House committee would put “patent trolls” on the hook for defendants’ legal costs, making unfounded patent-infringement suits less attractive.

The Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (SHIELD) Act, or H.R. 845, was introduced in February by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). It targets patent trolls — plaintiffs who make broad claims about old patents. These claims may fail if they go to trial, but defending against such a suit is expensive and many targets choose to settle.

To discourage such suits, the SHIELD Act would make patent trolls responsible for defendants’ costs should the defendants prevail at trial.

Patent trolls have targeted innovations in many fields. In transportation, at least one has claimed infringement over transit systems’ web- and smartphone-based bus- and train-tracking applications.

The non-profit Electronic Freedom Foundation, which is concerned about patent trolls’ general drag on innovation, provides an online congressional contact form for supporters of the SHIELD Act.

Eric Sundquist is Managing Director at SSTI.