Patent trolls, unlike the creatures of myth, have no society to speak of, and therefore no king. But, if you asked patent lawyers, business owners or attorneys general around the United States to name their own “king of the patent trolls,” chances are, most of them would crown MPHJ Technologies with that dubious honor.
MPHJ owns patents that relate to scanning documents to email, a task that is performed every day in businesses that range from small coffee shops to the largest Fortune 500 companies. And MPHJ is not shy about aggressively pursuing the businesses that it feels are infringing on its patents, sending out thousands of demand letters to small businesses across the nation, often under the guise of various shell companies.
FURTHER READING: Vermont attorney general brings aggressive stance to patent trolls
These demand letters – and the financial and psychological stress they place on small businesses – have caught the attention of state attorneys general across the country. But it is Vermont AG Bill Sorrell who has taken the reins and pursued aggressive action against MPHJ. His office moved to sue MPHJ, accusing the non-practicing entity of making misleading statements in its demand latters.
The troll, though, has not been shy about fighting back, taking its case to federal court and seeking sanctions against Sorrell for overstepping his legal bounds. On August 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled against MPHJ, stating that the case did not hinge on the validity of the troll’s patents, and therefore the Federal Circuit did not have jurisdiction in this matter, also declining to sanction Sorrell’s office.
This kicks the case back to the state courts, but represents only one front on which MPHJ is facing off against government foes. Nebraska state AG Jon Bruning has also taken aggressive action against MPHJ, and that case is ongoing, and the Federal Trade Commission is fighting a defensive battle with MPHJ after the troll sued the federal agency.