Patent Trolls Want $1,000 Per Person for Using Scanners
When Steven Vicinanza got a letter in the mail earlier this year informing him that he needed to pay $1,000 per employee for a license to some “distributed computer architecture” patents, he didn’t quite believe it at first. The letter seemed to be saying anyone using a modern office scanner to scan documents to e-mail would have to pay—which is to say, just about any business, period.
If he’d paid up, the IT services provider that Vicinanza founded, BlueWave Computing, would have owed $130,000.
The letters, he soon found out, were indeed real and quite serious—he wasn’t the only person getting them. BlueWave works mostly with small and mid-sized businesses in the Atlanta area, and before long, several of his own customers were contacting him about letters they had received from the same mysterious entity: “Project Paperless LLC.”
“I was just mad,” he said.
Vicinanza soon got in touch with the attorney representing Project Paperless: Steven Hill, a partner at Hill, Kertscher & Wharton, an Atlanta law firm.
“[Hill] was very cordial and very nice,” he told Ars. “He said, if you hook up a scanner and e-mail a PDF document—we have a patent that covers that as a process.”
It didn’t seem credible that Hill was demanding money for just using basic office equipment exactly the way it was intended to be used. So Vicinanza clarified:
“So you’re claiming anyone on a network with a scanner owes you a license?” asked Vicinanza. “He said, ‘Yes, that’s correct.’ And at that point, I just lost it.”