Luxembourg-based patent troll ArrivalStar has sued a number of U.S. transit agencies and other defendants for infringing on patents that probably shouldn't ever have been issued. For instance, patent 7,030,781 generally refers to a technology that notifies you if your bus or package is arriving early, late, or on time. Despite the fact that automatic vehicle location and package tracking technologies had already been proposed, prototyped, and patented, ArrivalStar still managed to secure a patent over the technology.
That bears repeating: ArrivalStar's patented technology is really nothing new [PDF] and surely doesn't meet the standard necessary to get a 20-year monopoly. So we're trying to invalidate one of their patents, and we want to make sure you, too, have the necessary ammunition if you are a victim of ArrivalStar's onslaught against innovation.
In order to qualify for registration, patents must be novel and non-obvious. Novelty means the invention being patented must not have been publicly written about, patented, or invented before the patent was filed. Those types of publications are known as prior art.
We put out a call for prior art for one of the ArrivalStar patents in March. And in September, EFF and the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at Berkeley Law, armed with a few particularly relevant examples of prior art, filed a request for reexamination with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), challenging one of ArrivalStar's dubious patents.
We compiled a list of more than 30 examples of some of the best prior art we found, much of which was discovered with the help of this blog's readers. If you're facing a threat from ArrivalStar, you might consider using this art to fight back and attempt to invalidate their dangerous patents.
We are still waiting to hear back from the USPTO about the ArrivalStar patent reexamination. It is clear to us that not only do ArrivalStar's actions hinder the public good through hampering innovation, but their patents were registered with an unfortunate, blind eye to the past.
Part of the problem we face is that patent litigation is prohibitively expensive. The patent troll business model only survives because settling is cheaper than fighting their spurious claims. We hope that by providing access to the prior art we've already found, those facing threats from ArrivalStar might be better equiped to fight back. This is in addition, of course, to the petition for reexamination that we already filed. Reexaminations are an important tool in the fight to fix our broken patent system. EFF recently asked the USPTO to keep reexaminations affordable, allowing for a needed public check on patent office oversight. We are also pushing passage of the SHIELD Act in Congress, which would help deter patent trolls by placing financial burdens on them for instigating frivolous legal action.