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Patent Trolls Still Targeting Printers –Michelson

March 2014 By Mark Michelson
As if commercial printers aren’t have enough trouble trying to survive, and hopefully thrive, in our razor thin-margin industry, it appears that patent trolls are finding the graphic arts industry to be fertile ground for litigation.

According to Jim Workman, assistant vice president at Printing Industries of America (PIA), there are several patent owners and law firms trying to flex their muscles seeking licenses and/or payouts, but the two most active litigators are CTP Innovations (represented by Nashville, TN-based Baker Donelson) and SkipPrint (represented by Maschoff Bernann in Park City, UT). PIA has created a full list and open forum at www.printing.org/patentlistserv.

CTP Innovations holds two patents that relate to prepress and CTP workflows, whereas SkipPrint’s five patents involve Web-to-print, fulfillment and preflighting workflows. Last summer, PIA filed petitions for Inter Partes Review with the Patent and Trademark Office seeking to invalidate CTP Innovations’ claims. This put a temporary stay on several patent infringement lawsuits mainly targeted at mid-size printers in Texas, Georgia and Tennessee. Workman says there have also been some filings against print shops in Florida, Michigan and California.

According to Workman, a judge upheld CTP Innovations’ patent claims, which moves these cases forward again. Targeted printers had all received form letters demanding $75,000 for a one-time license fee, if settled within two weeks, $95,000 if an agreement is reached in three weeks, and the ante rises after that. Reportedly about a half-dozen printers have settled with CTP Innovations to avoid the cost of litigation. SkipPrint had filed lawsuits against Quad/Graphics and Transcontinental’s Rastar subsidiary in Utah, whose assets were recently sold.

Despite the PIA’s failed attempt to get a judge to invalidate CTP Innovations’ patents, the association is serving as an information clearinghouse, forum and research tool for impacted printers (and their attorneys), and is encouraging platesetter manufacturers to get involved legally. PIA lobbyist Lizbeth Lyons also attended a White House event Feb. 20 on patent troll abuse and met with Patent Trademark Office Deputy Director Michelle Lee to advocate for the industry.

The wide-spread ramifications of these patent troll cases remains unknown. But, the obligation to make a licensing payout of $75,000 or more, sadly, could put some print shops out of business.

Check out this video for more commentary on this troubling matter.


 

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