Be Alert for Scanner Scams

CautionYou should be aware that small and medium-size businesses in several areas of the country are being bombarded by intimidating e-mails and letters threatening legal action if the recipient does not pay a significant licensing fee – for using a common office scanner.

The senders claim to hold a patent for the process of using an office scanner – any office scanner – to convert a document to a PDF for e-mail purposes. And they do.

But their demands for fees of $900-$1,200 per employee are little more than a new attempt at “patent trolling.” Rather than filing legal action for patent violations against the makers of the scanners, the mysterious holding company is going after a softer target, the end users of the scanner products. Their hope is to bully unsuspecting companies into paying up rather than fighting the spurious claims.

The instances of the patent trollers actually filing lawsuits are few and far between. And those small businesses that have pushed back have all won their cases. In response the patent trollers have shifted their efforts into new shell companies and continue to send out thousands of demand letters using an array of technical-sounding company names. All lead back to a Delaware-based holding company whose owners have not been identified.

If you receive a threatening letter demanding licensing fees for the use of common office technology products and processes, don’t ignore it. Alert your attorney. But don’t rush to spend thousands of dollars in what may be a brazen attempt to extract money from unsuspecting businesses.

If you have any questions about this scamming attempt, please contact Gray, Gray & Gray at (781) 407-0300.

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