Tim Steller: Group sets meeting to foil patent trolls

2013-03-08T00:00:00Z Tim Steller: Group sets meeting to foil patent trollsTim Steller Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The patent-trolling effort that threatened a Tucson firm is drawing a national response.

The Business Technology Association has scheduled a March 14 summit meeting for the photocopier industry to find a way to protect companies like Tucson's GLHN Architects and Engineering - as well as the industry's own sales.

You may recall that GLHN is among many small companies nationwide that have received demand letters from law firms arguing that the company is violating patents. The businesses' alleged violation: Using their photocopier to scan a document to a local network and email it - an everyday process at offices in Tucson and around the country.

The association's general counsel wrote in an industry publication this month that the threats of lawsuits may be persuading businesses to pay settlements - in GLHN's case, the amount would have been nearly $100,000 - but actual lawsuits over the patents have been almost nonexistent.

"BTA cannot wait for a suit while thousands of end users face patent-infringement claims and countless small businesses among them pay the fees demanded," Robert Goldberg wrote.

Goldberg is organizing the March 14 gathering in Newark, N.J., intended to involve photocopier retailers and manufacturers.

His suggestion for business people who receive demands for licensing fees from law firms representing patent owners is to do what GLHN President William Nelson did - push back.

Not only did Nelson tell me his story for the newspaper, but he ensured that GLHN's 92 employees no longer can use the push-button, scan-and-email feature of their photocopiers. Then he had his attorney tell the patent troll's attorney that they are not violating the patent.

"She said, 'If that's the case, we'll move you off that list,' " Nelson told me Thursday. "I don't know if that just puts us on another list, but we haven't gotten any more letters."

A company calling itself AdzPro LLC demanded $1,050 per employee from GLHN in letters sent in October and November.

In Tucson, the publicity over the patent-troll effort was a hiccup in some photocopier sales. And that adds to the pressure to resolve the issue.

"Anytime the salesmen aren't doing well, they start screaming," Nelson said.

The manufacturers of photocopiers have been deliberate in their responses - not surprising since they aren't being targeted by the patent trolls.

A Feb. 8 email to Canon photocopier dealers by a Canon U.S.A. executive says, "Canon is taking steps to meet in person with the owner of the patents-at-issue in order to try to resolve this matter on behalf of all end users of Canon document scanning equipment and software."

It also referred owners of Canon photocopiers to their own intellectual property attorneys if they get a patent-violation demand letter.

"The manufacturers are starting to respond," said Jeff Woloshin, managing partner at Action Imaging Group, the Tucson company that sold GLHN its photocopier. "The industry is starting to wake up to it."

Contact reporter Tim Steller at tsteller@azstarnet.com or 807-8427. On Twitter, @senyorreporter

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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