One of the great amenities of buying things online is that you can usually track the shipping progress of your purchase all the way from the vendor's warehouse to your front porch. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that wonderful feature, along with many other services that make life more convenient for people, could go the way of the dinosaur if patent courts should rule in favor of a Luxembourg-based company called ArrivalStar.
That notification system that tells you when your packages will arrive is commonly known as the Jones Patent, which takes its name from the inventor of the technology, Martin Kelly Jones. As EFF explains, ArrivalStar is a "patent troll" currently threatening several municipalities in the United States along with the U.S. Postal Service with legal action if they do not accede to the company's claims of ownership over the Jones patent. The dispute presents cities and USPS with three different options of resolving the problem, all of which are not good: they can fight ArrivalStar in court over the patent claim, they can settle and pay off ArrivalStar, or they can simply stop using the technology altogether. In any of those scenarios, the use of the patent among cities, companies, and USPS is threatened
The shipment tracking technology isn't the only patent that ArrivalStar is trying to claim. The company's avarice also threatens to engulf the service that lets commuters check on the arrival times of upcoming buses or trains.
To combat ArrivalStar's attempts to snuff out these valued services, EFF is working alongside Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at Berkeley Law to issue a challenge to ArrivalStar's claims to the patent. "If left unchallenged," EFF says, "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."
The scope of ArrivalStar's attempt to claim the very valuable Jones patent didn't go unnoticed by someone with a mind for public shaming via Twitter. Using the Twitter account @ArrivalStar, which lists "ArrivalStar Victim" as the name, someone (or many someones) has been posting information about companies that have been affected by ArrivalStar's patent claim as well as none-too-subtle opinions about ArrivalStar itself.
Latest Victims (April 25) - Infologix, True Religion LLC, Genco Distribution
Latest Vitims (April 29) - Encore Forwarding, Tripit, Intravex, Oakley, Best Buy, AFC Wordwide Express
Martin Kelly Jones & William R. McMahon are to Patent Trolling as Bin Laden is to Terrorism. Without them, the civilized world will rejoice.
William R. McMahon. (A) Douche, (B) Pedophile, (C) Ass Hole, (D) Criminal (E) Half Wit (F) Sorry Excuse for Lawyer (G) All of the Above ?
Translation of our threats, using the parlance of Good Fellas.... "Fuck you, pay me!"
Our motto: Sue everyone and many will choose to settle without a fight. Use some of the settlement money to go after the next victim.
Oddly, the account was only active on May 6, 2011, and all of those posts were made in a two-hour window; since then, the account has been mum.
Given the first few tweets posted above, several companies have already been affected by ArrivalStar's claim to the Jones patent. In fact, as of September of last year, ArrivalStar had filed over 100 lawsuits against 17 different companies.
Since EFF has taken up the cause, maybe the mystery Tweeter who so vociferously denounced ArrivalStar's actions will be inspired to take up the reins of the account once again? Nothing gets attention these days like Twitter parody accounts, and the more attention brought to this legal issue, the more momentum EFF stands to gain as the organization goes to court against ArrivalStar.