Patent trolls’ latest gambit: Sue businesses if they dare to use office scanners

Patent Troll

We’ve seen a lot of ridiculous claims asserted by patent trolls over the past few years, but this one truly takes the cake: Ars Technica reports that an entity called “Project Paperless LLC” has been sending out letters to small and medium-sized businesses demanding licensing fees for using office scanners capable of sending PDFs via email. Steven Vicinanza, founder of Atlanta-based IT services provider BlueWave Computing, told Ars that both his company and several of its customers had received letters telling them that they needed to buy licenses for “distributed computer architecture” patents that cover basic networked scanning technology. At a cost of $1,000 per employee, Vicinanza said that the licenses would have cost his company a grand total of $130,000 just for the right to scan documents.

Vicinanza couldn’t believe that he was actually being threatened with a lawsuit for using office scanners, so he decided to contact the attorney for Project Paperless to get some clarification.

“[The attorney] said, if you hook up a scanner and e-mail a PDF document — we have a patent that covers that as a process,” Vicinanza told Ars. “So you’re claiming anyone on a network with a scanner owes you a license? He said, ‘Yes, that’s correct.’ And at that point, I just lost it.”

Vicinanza isn’t the only one “losing it” over patent suits, of course. Cisco (CSCO) late last year decided to go on the offense against patent trolls by flat-out accusing them of breaking the law. What’s more, we’ve heard rumblings that the United States Department of Justice’s antitrust division may be ready to do something to limit patent trolls’ ability to extract licensing fees, so there could be some relief for patent suit-stricken firms on the horizon.

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