TCS lobbies for relief from 911 patent trolls

TeleCommunication Systems (TCS) is trying to make the FCC aware of the problems associated with patent trolls on the 911 system and possibly take action to mitigate the harm the trolls are causing.

According to TCS' recent ex parte filing with the FCC, abusive patent litigation practices are siphoning off millions of dollars from the 911 ecosystem. Non-practicing entities (NPE), otherwise known as trolls, are suing wireless operators, relying on the fact they must provide 911 service by law as a justification for making claims of infringement.

Specifically, it lists cases going back to 2007, when all four wireless operators were listed as defendants, through 2011, when TracBeam LLC filed against AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T), MetroPCS, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Wireless and several Nextel affiliates. TracBeam also has filed a claim against Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) in 2014.

"At the same time in which the FCC sees the importance of improved location technology to support 911 calls from indoors, data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) indicates that the number of location-based patents is growing," TCS said in the filing. The number of patents tied to location grew by almost 14 percent in the last year, and the total number of patents including the term "GPS," "GPS and location" or "location based services" grew more than 11 percent in the last year, to almost 8,800 patents.

"Without added protection for the 911 industry, these trends could drain more than $100M from the ecosystem with no value added to the system," the company said.

TCS is part of a coalition of carriers, vendors and advocacy organizations that want to see a provision that would clarify existing law and protect the 911 ecosystem via proposed legislation. The filing suggests the FCC can assist in the effort by sending a letter of support to the appropriate subcommittees in the Senate and House of Representatives. AT&T, Cricket, CTIA, Sprint (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) are among those listed as supporting the legislative action.

TCS supplies some version of its location technology to all four of the Tier 1 U.S. carriers. Because it can do both device and network-based location look-ups, TCS is in a better position than some other vendors to deliver secure locations because device-based location look-ups can easily be spoofed and are not as reliable as network-based lookups, according to the company. In September, TCS said it would offer network functions virtualization (NFV) for all of its technology solutions for location-based services and messaging by the end of this year.

Last year, TCS was selected to provide its navigation solution for AT&T's Drive Studio in Atlanta, where AT&T solutions are integrated across multiple companies. TCS' Location ToolKit provides an in-car navigation solution, including automatic map updates, real-time traffic and integrated content such as real-time gas prices, weather Doppler radar overlay, movies and show times, ratings and reviews.

For more:
- see this FCC filing

Related articles:
TCS to deliver NFV for all its messaging, location technology by end of 2015
TCS to study improved geo-targeting for wireless emergency alerts
TCS aims to ease E911 issues for VoLTE

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