THE STATE OF MINNESOTA has drawn a line in the sand that software trolls are not allowed to pass.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson acted after a firm called MPHJ Technology Investments trolled the heck out of businesses in the state.
Swanson said that the days of the shakedown are over and that MPHJ will stop sending messages to "thousands of businesses" about the way they scan documents to email.
"Patent trolls shake down small businesses to pay 'license fees' they may not owe to avoid threats of costly litigation," said Swanson.
"While this settlement and court order may affect one patent troller, the practice of 'patent trolling' will continue until Congress enacts laws to prohibit such activity."
MPHJ fell under the gaze of the attorney general's office last spring when it received a number of complaints from small businesses about its outreach programme.
"MPHJ Technology, through its affiliates and law firm, sent a series of increasingly threatening letters to small businesses that alleged infringement of its patents for using basic office equipment to scan documents to e‑mail," it said.
"The letters pressed businesses to pay a fee of $1,000 to $1,200 per employee for a license in order to avoid litigation. Many of the letters promised litigation - and some even included a draft lawsuit to be filed in federal court - if the business did not respond or purchase a license."
According to the attorney general's statement the firm has agreed to cease its patent enforcement activities in the state and will not be able to do them again without express permission.
Earlier this summer Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell filed a lawsuit against the firm. His complaint was that MPHJ Technology had "engaged in unfair and deceptive acts under Vermont's Consumer Protection Act".
In June Canon said that it had signed an agreement with the firm that would protect its customers from patent infringement allegations."At Canon, our top priority is supporting our customers," said Seymour Liebman, EVP, CAO and GM of Canon.
"This is an unusual situation as it targets our customers, not Canon. Because providing superior customer service and support is paramount for us, we determined that entering into this agreement was the best way to support our valued customers." µ