Smart Train Predates Troll Patent, Group Says

     (CN) – A patent troll in Luxembourg is hampering vehicle-tracking technology by suing public transit entities, a digital rights advocate says.
     The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Friday to reexamine a tracking patent held by ArrivalStar.
     The patent, No. 7,030,781, claims a method and system for tracking the location of vehicles, calculating whether or not they are on schedule, and communicating the results. Its operation relies on something like a cellphone chip and a global position receiver chip.
     Martin Kelly Jones filed the patent in 1999. ArrivalStar has exclusive licensing rights to the patent, which is owned by British Virgin Islands-based Melvino Technologies Limited.
     Patent 781 is one of 34 patents held by ArrivalStar. Critics say the Luxembourg company is a “patent troll” that sells no products or services, and sues solely for financial gain.
     ArrivalStar has filed more than 150 lawsuits on the patents, many against public services and government agencies including King County, the Illinois Commuter Rail, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority and the U.S. Postal Service.
     “Many” of these entities have settled with ArrivalStar to avoid the high cost of litigation, and these deals have deterred others from adopting new vehicle-tracking techniques, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
     But the group says that Patent 781 is actually invalid because the U.S. Department of Transportation patented similar technology known as “Smart Bus” in 1992.
     Julie Samuels, a staff attorney for the foundation, criticized ArrivalStar after filing the request.
     “ArrivalStar apparently believes that the broad language of their patents could potentially cover any system that tracks a vehicle or a package and notifies a customer of the status,” Samuels said in a statement. “Even if you could patent something that broad and vague – and we think you can’t – you certainly can’t patent something that was invented by other people years before. Yet because of this particularly baseless patent, municipalities across the country are being forced to choose whether they will fight an expensive lawsuit, pay ArrivalStar’s settlement demands, or abandon a public service. This is not how the patent system is supposed to work.”
     To protect the U.S. patent system, which it describes as being “in crisis,” the foundation launched a project called Defend Innovation.
     “The patent office issues bad software patents every day, and those patents are hurting American businesses and consumers and hindering innovation,” Samuels said.
     Past legal victories for the foundation include Apple v. Does, which defended source privilege for online journalists; and Bernstein v. U.S. Department of Justice, which marked the first time that a federal court affirmed First Amendment protection of software code.
     For the case against ArrivalStar, the foundation partnered with the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at the University of California Berkeley School of Law.

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