March 1, 2012 | By Julie Samuels

Help EFF Bust the Dangerous Jones Patent

Ridden the bus or train lately? Then you’ve probably checked your phone to find out when it will arrive. Or if you shop online, you’ve probably checked to see when your packages will arrive. If patent troll ArrivalStar has its way, this could all change. ArrivalStar has launched a blitzkrieg against municipalities and the U.S. Postal Service, among others, claiming that these types of tracking services infringe its patent, leaving those defendants with a few stark choices: fight the expensive lawsuit for years in court, settle and pay ArrivalStar to go away, or stop using the technology altogether (and even then, the municipalities could be forced to pay for their earlier use). ArrivalStar's dangerous suits show no sign of letting up: just this week, it sued Monterey, California and Cleveland. Given the current budget crunch facing many of these entities, the last thing they need is to spend their limited resources (and taxpayer dollars) fending off bogus patent attacks.

If left unchallenged, the broad language in ArrivalStar’s patent could potentially cover any system or technology that tracks a vehicle along a predetermined route and then notifies a potential passenger or package recipient of the vehicle’s status. Specifically, ArrivalStar’s patent claims to cover any vehicle tracking method that (1) tracks a vehicle, (2) compares the tracking information to the vehicle’s scheduled arrival time along a predetermined route, (3) contacts a user, and (4) tells her whether the vehicle is on or off schedule. 

To protect our public services, EFF, along with the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at Berkeley Law, plans to challenge this patent. In order to do so, we are looking for prior art created before January 18, 1999 that completes the steps listed above. Useful prior art might describe systems designed to track vehicles for consumers, such as delivery companies, school buses, or public transportation systems. Many technologies could be used to complete the steps in the patent. For example, vehicle tracking (step 1) could be done by radio or GPS transmitter; comparing tracking information to arrival times (step 2) could be done by a computer or by a human; and notification to the user (steps 3 and 4) could take the form of a phone call, text message, email, or other electronic communication.

If you know anything about these types of technologies and want to help us challenge this patent, take a look at the more detailed description (located here) and send any leads on prior art you might have to priorart@eff.org. And let your friends and others who might have particular knowledge about vehicle tracking, fleet coordination, or similar systems know, too. We need your help to bust this dangerous patent!

 


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