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Minnesota AG takes a stand against patent trolls

MPHJ Technology Investments had been attempting to charge businesses for scanning documents to email addresses

There are dozens of pieces of office equipment that workers use every day – like computer monitors, photocopiers and document scanners – that they likely take for granted. But what if office workers were required to pay a royalty each time they used a scanner? It might seem ludicrous to imagine that a common act such as scanning a document to an email address could violate a patent, but that is precisely what one company, MPHJ Technology Investments, is claiming.

But the state of Minnesota is not willing to just sit back and let MPHJ send harassing letters to hundreds of businesses in the Gopher State. It seems that Attorney General Lori Swanson has had just about enough of patent trolls like MPHJ.

Swanson’s stance is pretty clear. “Patent trolls shake down small businesses to pay ‘license fees’ they may not owe to avoid threats of costly litigation,” she said in a statement.

And the state of Minnesota is not afraid to take strong action against the troll in question. MPHJ will be required to pay a civil penalty of $50,000 for each Minnesota company that paid for the privilege of scanning documents to emails. In addition, the state will not allow MPHJ to send further threatening letters without the approval of the attorney general’s office.

According to Swanson’s office, Minnesota is the first state to come to such an arrangement with a patent troll, though the Obama administration had previously released legislative recommendations on how to address these types of patent aggregators.

Patent trolls have been hiding under metaphorical bridges and striking out at unsuspecting travelers for quite some time now, but perhaps this action by Swanson will spur other states to fight back and end this business threat once and for all.

Contributing Author

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Rich Steeves

Richard P. Steeves is Managing Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he covers the intellectual property and compliance arenas. Rich earned a B.A. in English Literature...

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