Sat, 06 Aug 1994

Inventor of minibus door handles considers patent

By Johannes Simbolon

JAKARTA (JP): It is still fresh in the mind of FX Jacobus Jut, 52, when City Police Chief Maj. Gen. Mochammad Hindarto praised his invention in front of dozens of people, including reporters and senior municipal officials, Tuesday morning at the city police headquarters.

At the meeting Hindarto proclaimed Jacobus as an inventor of a special device which will make work easier for drivers of small minibuses, including the KWK (Koperasi Wahana Kalpika), Mikrolet, Angkot as they do not have to alight solely to close and open the doors.

"You should patent your invention," the two-star general advised Jacobus. "Otherwise other people might imitate it," Hindarto added when he tried the newly installed handle of a Mikrolet minibus.

Hindarto was clearly pleased with Jacobus' work. Now drivers of small minibuses have no more reason to protest the implementation of the closed-door policy as they did in May when they went on strike against the regulation. The Mikrolet drivers strongly insisted they should be exempt from the ruling because they could not hire conductors solely to do the job.

In a favorable response to the protest, police stopped ticketing drivers of small minibuses failing to close their doors while in motion, and gave the drivers until December to outfit their vehicles with special equipment which allows them to close and open the door automatically.

At hearing Hindarto's compliment that morning, Jacobus, an Eurasian of Dutch father and Javanese mother, just smiled modestly. "There were several important men flanking me, including chief of the DLLAJ (the City Traffic and Land Transportation Control Office), Col. JP Sepang, and chairman of the Organda (Jakarta Land Transports Owners' Organization) Aip Syarifuddin, so that I was not carried away by the compliment. I thought it would be rather impolite to respond to such a compliment," Jacobus later recalled.

He apparently did not anticipate that Hindarto's compliment would lead to a flurry of questions from excited reporters. For the first time in his life he had come into the spotlight, under which he felt clearly uneasy.

Several newspapers printed his workshop name, complete with address on the following day-- the "Ave Maria" workshop on Jl. Patriot, Dua Tanjakan, Jaka Sempurna subdistrict, Bekasi.

"I never thought about patent rights before. I made the equipment not for financial gain, but solely based on my intention of helping the government solve the problem and to meet the appeal of Organda," the father of eleven said.

Several days after the mass strike of the Mikrolet drivers in May, Organda contacted Jacobus, who is also a functionary of the organization, to check if he could create special equipment that enables drivers of small minibuses to close and open the bus doors in a practical manner.

Comparative study

Inspired by two organizations' appeal and press reports that small minibuses in Bandung had been equipped with door controllers, Jacobus and some friends went to there for a comparative study .

They found out, however, that the handle installed in Bandung's minibuses caused inconvenience to passengers sitting in the front row as it hangs parallel to driver's head on the left.

Jacobus felt it would have been more convenient if the handle was placed on the right side of the driver, parallel with the driver's hips. But the handle could not be installed there as all Bandung's minibuses, being Daihatsu and Suzuki vehicles, have their petrol tanks located under the driver's seat.

Jacobus returned to Bekasi with optimism of being able to make it better, placing the handles besides driver's hips, since minibuses in Jakarta are mostly Kijang vans which have the petrol tanks placed in the rear.

After a month he had completed the design and presented it at a meeting with Organda and DLLAJ in June, and the latter was quick to approve it. It was then followed by Tuesday's presentation to Hindarto.

Previously Hindarto set the end of this year as the deadline for owners of small minibuses in the city to install the door- controlling handles, saying that police would resume ticketing minibuses cruising city streets with the door open while in motion.

After the praise from Hindarto, Jacobus basked in pride but said he could not decide whether to patent his invention.

"I think it's the equipment is too primitive to patent, consisting of some pipes which are welded together. After all, I am not the kind of man who finds it comfortable to sue people. To me, it would only cause a lot of inconvenience," he speaks softly, looking at his workers busy with welders.


One handle costs Rp 75,000 (US$ 35) while Jacobus spends only Rp 20,000 for the equipment.

He is well aware that many people will probably pirate his invention and he is powerless to prevent it unless the DLLAJ lends a hand by issuing roadworthy documents only to those minibuses which install equipment made at his workshop.

In readiness of an order placed by Organda, Jacobus has purchased enough material and workers to install the door- controlling handles into more than 9,000 minibuses operating in the city.

"If only a few of them turn to my workshop to get the apparatus installed I shall certainly suffer financial losses. The best I can do is ask the Organda or DLLAJ to pay compensation for the losses," Jacobus says.

It would be an injustice if someone like Jacobus were to suffer losses in his efforts to improve the safety of transport vehicles available in the city, especially when his device helps to implement the new regulations set by the authorities.