Ever since Amazon managed to patent one-click ordering, I have been skeptical of software patents. When I was in the Internet field, I saw companies patent some, uh, patently obvious stuff, roughly akin to patenting an on/off switch. Or even worse, multiple companies would get patents for the equivalent of an on/off switch, with this company claiming it has the patent for on-off switches for lighting, and this one for appliances, and this one for all electrical devices, and then all three end up sitting in court for about 10 years arguing about who has the patent for turning on the bulb in your refrigerator.
Kevin Drum brings us an amazing horror story of a patent that apparently I owe licensing fees for -- and probably you do too.
Vicinanza soon got in touch with the attorney representing Project Paperless: Steven Hill, a partner at Hill, Kertscher & Wharton, an Atlanta law firm.
"[Hill] was very cordial and very nice," he told Ars. "He said, if you hook up a scanner and e-mail a PDF document—we have a patent that covers that as a process."
It didn’t seem credible that Hill was demanding money for just using basic office equipment exactly the way it was intended to be used. So Vicinanza clarified:
"So you're claiming anyone on a network with a scanner owes you a license?" asked Vicinanza. "He said, 'Yes, that's correct.' And at that point, I just lost it."
Drum has a good discussion, including some prior art with which he actually participated.