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Ricoh and Xerox challenge scanner patent trolls

May 28, 2013

patent-200x101SMBs threatened with lawsuits by “mysterious six letter entities”.

Ars Technica reports that action has been taken by Ricoh and Xerox against 40 six-letter shell companies acting on behalf of MPHJ Technologies that have been demanding $1,000 (€773) from each staff member using scanners to scan to PDF documents, claiming that by doing so they infringe four of MPHJ’s patents.

According to the article, SMBs around the US began receiving threats from the six-letter entities, including AdzPro and AllLed, eight months ago, despite patent infringement cases usually being taken up against manufacturers rather than end users.

However, patent claims against end users are reportedly on the rise; with Brian Farney, a lawyer managing the MPHJ scheme, explaining that “users were the only appropriate targets of the MPHJ patents because the patents are only infringed when the scanners are combined with a local network, a step that is performed by the users”.

As a result, Ricoh and Xerox, who both manufacture scanners, have filed an “inter partes” review request at the patent office in an attempt to prove that the claims of MPHJ patent No. 7,986,426, which applies to “a system and/or method enables a typical PC user to add electronic paper processing to their existing business process”, are not patentable. The inter partes review will give the patent owner an opportunity to modify their patent.

The OEMs said in a statement: “The 7,986,426 patent has become the subject of an aggressive patent licensing campaign by various affiliates of MPHJ Technology Investments who are targeting users of the products of virtually every manufacturer of multi-function imaging equipment, including Ricoh and Xerox […] Today’s filing demonstrates both Ricoh and Xerox’s strong commitment to their customers and authorized dealer networks. If successful, our action will both nullify the ’426 patent and help disable MPHJ’s licensing campaign against our customers. We are confident this is the right action to take to support our customers.”

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