Scan-to-email patent trolls sue Coca-Cola and other large companies

MPHJ is America's most notorious patent troll. The company -- whose owners are shrouded in mystery through a network of shell companies -- claims a patent on scanning documents and then emailing them, and they threaten business-owners with massive lawsuits unless they pay $1,000 per-employee "license fees."

Mostly, the troll has gone after small-fry, companies too small to defend themselves, and has stopped short of actually going to court. But now they've gone big-league, announcing suits against Coca-Cola, Dillards, Unum Group and Huhtakami.

It's not clear whether they've built their litigation warchest through the small-fry, but it seems unlikely. The lawsuit discloses that the troll extracted payments from Canon and Sharp in exchange for not suing their customers, and I suspect this is where the money for the suits came from.

The legal filings in the cases are very long, and detail the companies' internal networks as evidence of patent violation. The troll relies on the fact that all three companies use Xerox and Lexmark products and since these two companies haven't paid ransom for their customers, it can be assumed that anyone using their devices violates the patents.

The complaints describe the IT infrastructure of each company, apparently based on publicly available information. In the case of Coca-Cola for instance, MPHJ says the company transmits "electronic images, graphics and/or documents via a communications network from a network addressable scanner, digital copier, or other multifunction peripheral," which allegedly infringes MPHJ's patents. Coca-Cola uses a "standardized infrastructure of Lexmark C772 color and T644 monochrome laser printers, as well as Lexmark X642e and X646dte MFPs, all connected to the company’s network and integrated with the company’s FileNet system," write MPHJ's lawyers, from the Farney Daniels law firm.

The four lawsuits are a major escalation in the battle over the MPHJ patents. They're remarkably long; the suit against Unum group is 47 pages, and the one against Huhtakami is 66 pages. In part, such detail about the nature of infringement suggests that MPHJ is responding to claims that its demands in the past have been too vague.

Notorious “scan-to-email” patents go big, sue Coca-Cola and Dillard’s [Joe Mullin/Ars Technica]