A non-practicing entity, Diversified Observation, has filed lawsuits against Konica Minolta, HP, Panasonic and OKI Data, claiming infringements of its various technology patents.
These suits are a prime example of patent trolling, where a company that does not produce any material goods or provide services to customers files for patents of popular and often cutting-edge technology or purchases patents from holders of a patent who may or may not be practicing manufacturers. These patent holders, popularly referred to as trolls, then file suit in court, claiming their patents have been infringed and seek monetary damages.
In some cases, particularly when smaller manufacturers or technology providers are threatened with litigation by these alleged patent holders, the non-practicing entity will offer defendants a way out via a license purchase to continue incorporating the technology in their products or services. Some defendants opt to purchase the license rather than face a costly court battle.
In this case, Texas-based Diversified Observation is suing Konica Minolta, Panasonic and OKI Data in regard to three patents: Information Reading Apparatus Having a Contact Image Sensor; Scanner that Controls Stepping Motor Torque; and Image Scanner with Automatic Signal Compensation. HP and Panasonic are being sued for alleged infringement of patents covering Image Processing System for Scanning a Rectangular Document. Konica Minolta and HP are being sued for infringement of the patent Paper Feeding Module of a Color Picture Printer.
Panasonic is also being sued for infringement of the patent Image Capturing Device Having De-Friction Function, while HP is also accused for the infringement of the patent for Image Processing System in which Image Processing Programs Stored in a Personal Computer are Selectively Executed through User Interface of a Scanner.
Due to a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year, patent infringement cases must be heard in the state in which the defendant is incorporated. The HP, Panasonic and OKI Data suits were filed in the U.S. District Court of Delaware, and the Konica Minolta suit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Texas. Diversified Observation is seeking jury trials against all four defendants, damages and payment of its legal fees.
President Obama was a champion of enacting legislation to deal with the scourge of patent trolls, but despite several efforts by lawmakers, Congress was unable to pass legislation. Bob Goldberg, general counsel for the Business Technology Association, notes that individual states have had more success in dealing with the issue. The Trump Administration has not deemed it a top concern.
“BTA monitors the issue and has testified and provided insight where requested,” Goldberg said. “Congress has addressed health care and now taxes (but) sees this issue as a low priority. The problem is separating cases brought by patent trolls versus legitimate patent owners.”
According to The Recycler, OpenPrint LLC launched suits in August against HP, OKI Data and Panasonic, claiming eight different patents were infringed.
Representatives for Konica Minolta and Panasonic declined comment on the pending litigation.