Patent trolls go after bigger targets

Coca-Cola, Dillard’s among targets for notorious patent troll MPHJ

MPHJ Technologies is one of the most notorious patent trolls operating in the market today. The company is known for sending demand letters to companies, claiming that those businesses have violated MPHJ patents by utilizing scan-to-email technology. These letters demand fees of up to $1,000 per user and were often targeted at small businesses. The actions of MPHJ have sparked strong reactions, spurring state attorneys general such as Bill Sorrell of Vermont to take a strong stand against so-called trolls.

Now, MPHJ has moved into a new phase, moving past demand letters and actually filing lawsuits. Among its targets are some big fish, including department store chain Dillard’s, insurance firm Unum and consumer goods packaging company Huhtakami. These companies range in size from 400 to 38,000 workers. The biggest target on MPHJ’s radar, though, is soft drink giant Coca-Cola.

Through its lawyers, Farney Daniels, MPHJ alleges that the infringing companies have transmitted "electronic images, graphics and/or documents via a communications network from a network addressable scanner, digital copier, or other multifunction peripheral,” which is said to violate two of MPHJ’s patents, numbers 8,488,173 and 7,477,410.

One factor that causes critics to label MPHJ as a “troll” is its tendency to go “downstream,” targeting users of technology rather than the technology’s manufacturers. Attorneys general such as Jon Bruning of Nebraska find this practice to be deceptive and scam-like behavior. Interestingly enough, MPHJ has been working upstream as well, working out licensing deals with Canon and Sharp, though it has reportedly not reached such agreements with other manufacturers, such as Xerox or HP.

 

For more news on the patent troll issue, check out the following:

Pennsylvania’s AG joins fight against patent trolls

A troll by any other name: Patent reform from the top down

GCs and AGs join hands to tackle patent litigation

When PAEs are not patent trolls

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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