There is a man in the heart of Texas who wants his companies to get paid any time a cell phone sends out a customized “ringback tone” instead of a standard ring; and any time a vehicle outfitted with a tracking-and-security system rolls off the production floor. His name is Patrick J. Curry, he’s based near Waco, and in the last week companies he manages have filed a barrage of patent infringement lawsuits against the nation’s biggest cell phone service providers and some of the world’s largest automobile manufacturers.
In several near-identical complaints filed Oct. 28 and Oct. 31 in Delaware district court, PJC Logistics, one of Curry’s companies, alleges that General Motors, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, BMW of North America, Rolls-Royce, Hyundai, KIA and ATX Group owe royalties for the Global Positioning System-based tracking and security systems (such as OnStar) in their vehicles. The patent, No. 5,223,844, is titled “Vehicle tracking and security system” and was issued in 1993.
Meanwhile, a volley of lawsuits against cell service providers filed by Callertone Innovations LLC on and Nov. 1, Oct. 28 and Oct. 18 takes aim at AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Nextel, MetroPCS, T-Mobile and others for infringing two patents covering ring-tone advertising. The patents in question are Nos. 7,852,995 and 7,860,225, titled “Method and apparatus for selectively providing messages in telecommunications systems.” The complaints vaguely claim that the companies use “methods and instrumentalities that embody the inventions,” but offer one specific example of infringement—the use of “ringback tones.” That’s when a cell phone owner chooses a song or sound clip to be played when people call, rather than a standard ringing noise.
All of these lawsuits—18 recent ones in total—stem from a business address in Hewitt, Texas at 777 Enterprise Blvd. A host of companies (LLCs) are registered at that address and list Curry as manager, including Callertone Innovations, PJC Logistics, PJC Properties, PJC Innovations, Select Retrieval, CodePro Innovations and others, according to online business directories. The businesses linked to that address examined for this report offer little to no public information online as to what they are or what they do.
The Patent Examiner has written about Curry before, when Select Retrieval asserted a patent for online retail against more than 100 companies at once, in September. Curry and his lawyers at Stamoulis & Weinblatt LLC, in Delaware, did not return calls and emails for comment.
‘Ring Tone Patent’
The two telecommunications patents Curry is asserting against cell providers were both invented in 2000 by Jonathan Streitzel, a tech entrepreneur in Long Beach, Calif. and co-founder of new media company BigStage.com. Strietzel’s CrunchBase profile notes he is “credited as one of the early inventors of ‘Ring-Tone’ advertising on mobile phones and was a very early inventor and thinker in cloud computing/storage of media online.”
How Strietzel’s patents came to be in Curry’s possession, Strietzel and his patent attorney, Noel Gillespie, say they have no idea. Gillespie said Strietzel “obviously sold them at some point,” but couldn’t say when or to who because he’s bound by a confidentiality agreement.
When asked about Curry, Callertone Innovations, and the only previous owners of the patents, Mount Hamilton Partners LLC and Network Directory Sciences LLC – both non-practicing patent-holders – Gillespie said he’d never heard of them.
“If I don’t know who those guys are, Jonathan wouldn’t either,” said Gillespie, an attorney at San Diego-based Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP.
Strietzel said once he licenses his patents he doesn’t keep track of them. “I don’t know the details, I just invent shit.”
‘Vehicle Tracking Patent’
This is just the latest chapter in Curry’s patent enforcement rampage this year. He acquired the vehicle tracking patent in February of this year from a transport company in Dallas. In March and April he used the patent to sue more than 200 trucking and carrier-related companies for infringement. Curry’s LinkedIn profile shows he has professional experience in the trucking industry. His current holdings, listed on the PJC Properties website, include Cen-Tex Freight Lines, a trucking company in Austin, and WalkAbout Transportation, a warehousing and logistics firm in Austin.
Read the full complaints [PDFs] mentioned in this article: