Patent troll takes aim at taxpayers

Martin Jones patents obvious ideas. A holding company, ArrivalStar, is shaking down cash-strapped cities nationwide over one for public transport scheduling—and they're paying up, to avoid costly litigation. The EFF has launched a campaign to invalidate the patent, and you can help.


  1. Before anyone else responds, I’d just like to point out that I own the patent on getting outraged about patent trolls.

  2. It doesn’t seem to me that this patent actually applies to bus arrival displays given that the claim is “contacting a user communications device before the vehicle reaches a vehicle stop along the route”.

    Is the bus sign a user communications device? No it’s a public communications device.

  3. Beautiful.
    I hope we get more trolling like this and eventually terminate the patent regime wholesale. All patenting is trolling.

    Unlike property in physical goods, which everyone can recognize and most people respect, so-called “intellectual property” (such as patents) only exist by force of government. You need a government agency to carve out the monopoly, define what it is exactly that you “own”.

    The “ownership” of ideas is un-natural in many ways:
    – the boundary and overlap of ideas is a very fuzzy concept (unlike most physical things),
    – if you own an idea (outside of an NDA contract), then I don’t really own my brain when I “got” the idea,
    – ideas are non-rivalrous (taking an idea does not take it away).

    Finally, on a consequential note, patents do not actually promote innovation. See “Against Intellectual Monopolies” for some historical analysis.

    1. Well, I’m open to the idea that some patents or copyrights might be worth while in a limited sense.  Without them, who is going to stop anyone selling cheap knockoff watches with “Rolex” on the dial?  (Oh, wait.  The fraud squad.  Perhaps you have a point.)

      Regardless, we wouldn’t have patent trolling if some idiot(s) didn’t accept clearly bogus patent applications.  Also, what is it with the idea that you can sell patent or copyright?   How does that make any ethical or moral sense?

      1. I don’t think people buy cheap knockoffs by accident. Incidentally, there are many solutions that don’t involve legislation of bogus concepts.

        > what is it with the idea that you can sell patent or copyright?

        If intellectual property was really property, then it would make sense that you can sell or trade it. That you object to selling it only goes to support that it cannot have been property in the first place ;-)

        1. Current IP law definitely needs a major overhaul (for example, software shouldn’t fall into the realm of ‘patent’ at all) but I don’t think I’m ready to do away with the concept of intellectual property entirely.

          If someone spends five years writing a brilliant and bestselling novel, don’t you think they have a greater right to profit from its proceeds (at least initially) than any guy on the street who happens to own a printing press? Profit motive isn’t the only reason to create original work but it can certainly be an important factor.

          1. I don’t think they have a greater right to profit from their work, they have a greater opportunity (they have their unreleased material, they have credit/repitation, they have first-mover advantage). Up to them to figure out how to turn it into profits, given real-world challenges. Many artists, creators and software engineers have found alternative models.

            For instance, you can raise funds from your fans through Kickstarter or an equivalent system. You can charge for public performances (music, talking about your book). You can sell branded items. They can sell support services (see open-source software).

            A parallel is with business ideas. If one entrepreneur (say Starbucks) gets the idea that selling high priced coffee in a nicely decorated store is profitable, it is that entrepreneur’s opportunity to find how to profit from it before competitors imitate the non-patentable idea.

            All those are voluntary solutions that don’t resort to the arbitrary edict of government.

          2. @Julien Couvreur:

            I don’t think they have a greater right to profit from their work, they have a greater opportunity (they have their unreleased material, they have credit/repitation, they have first-mover advantage).

            Not really. If the proceeds from a book go to whoever is able to produce and sell the physical copy, then the person who owns the printing press has a tremendous advantage over the person who wrote the text. “First-mover advantage” doesn’t mean much if someone else can buy one of those copies on the day of release and get a cheaper, mass-produced volume to market by week’s end. You also claim the author will retain credit—but that too is only guaranteed if we recognize some form of intellectual property.

        2. Well, yes.  If it has any validity at all, it’s not as a property, but as a right — like the right to privacy.

          You can’t sell your right to privacy; you can sell the story of your life, but you still have a right to privacy.

          1. You are correct to point out that so-called “rights to privacy” belong to the family of “intellectual property rights”. My conclusion also applies to privacy. It cannot be a right. 

            If it were a right, that would mean I have a right to control other people’s use of their body (brain, speech) and property (mediums of communication). 

            If a passer-by sees you committing some indiscretion (or anything really), preventing that person from talking about it or writing about it absent of prior contractual agreement is partially equivalent to making him a slave. 

            If you want privacy, then contract it out (NDA agreements, confidentiality agreements, require tight privacy policies) or protect it somehow (build a wall, put blinds on your windows, wear sunglasses, go to restricted invitation-only parties, keep sensitive information secret, …).

          2. @Julien: err, no.

            Just as my right to freedom of speech does not extend to my shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre (unless it is on fire…) my right to privacy does not extend to the point where I can force people not to look at me. 

            In fact, the general rule of thumb is that my rights stop at the point where they violate your rights.  Rather obviously, I would have thought.

  4. Why are the municipalities being sued for this because they bought “infringing hardware” from a technology vendor?

    If I were the organization being targeted by this lawsuit, I would talk to the vendor and let them know that I am about to (pardon the pun) “throw them under the bus” and let them deal with this litigation as part of the insurance bond and “hold harmless” clauses of the indemity clause for which they installed this technology under the government PO and work order.

    If this vendor has sold to more than one municipality, then they could inherit the economies of scale and consolidate all of these lawsuits and see them to completion without further costs to governments.  Imagine if the vendor was a member of the Fortune 50, I think this litigation would be wrapped up very quickly.

  5. I’m going to patent the USPTO patenting system.  Then once approved, which I know it will, I will sue the USPTO patenting system for infringing on my patent.

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