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Ill. group calls for reform to protect against patent trolls

Posted on April 8, 2014

The Illinois Public Transportation Association (IPTA), along with its members and partners, urged Congress to pass meaningful patent reform legislation.

Transit agencies across the state have been targeted multiple times by patent trolls — shell companies that purchase patents with no intention of innovating, but rather suing those who do. Patent troll threats have cost the U.S. economy $80 billion and counting.

"We call on Congress to pass legislation to curb the meritless attacks on transit agencies and other businesses,” said Laura Calderon, executive director of IPTA. "Without legislative action, patent trolls will go on unchecked while our services and the customers who use them will suffer."

Public transit agencies have been forced to settle with trolls rather than incur hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars in legal fees, which could be used deploying high-efficiency buses, investing in improved light and commuter rail systems, or enhancing public transit options throughout Illinois. Defending meritless claims comes at the expense of taxpayers at a time when public transit needs are great.

"Transit agencies are run by public money and we are at a disadvantage to defend ourselves from frivolous lawsuits by patent trolls," said Bill Volk, managing director of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District. "Now is the time for reform because this is just the beginning."

Transit agencies are not the only ones being targeted. Businesses of all sizes and in all industries are at risk. Partners that provide technology to better serve riders, including cameras on buses and monitoring equipment for tracking vehicles and their estimated time of arrival, have been threatened.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing last week and is currently discussing reforms to the patent system. IPTA and many of its members traveled to Washington, D.C. in March to speak directly with staff members in the offices of several members of Congress.

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