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Patent Was Masterminded to Sue Small Businesses

By William Vogeler, Esq. on November 02, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

This 'Stupid Patent of the Month' was once a mastermind's plan.

U.S. Patent No. 6,738,155 claims a "printing and publishing system" that uses a "communications network." That would be a network printer, right?

It doesn't seem so patent-worthy -- because, well, everybody thought of that. But a company claiming the patent threatened litigation to coerce license fees from hundreds of small businesses, and that was the master plan.

Missed It by That Much

Filed in 1999, the patent was approved at a time when it was easier to get software patents. Eventually, the patent was assigned to a holding company called CTP Innovations.

Starting in 2013, CTP filed dozens of patent lawsuits against printer businesses.The company demanded $75,000 -- if paid in two weeks -- or $95,000 later.

After filing more than 75 lawsuits, CTP ran into a roadblock. Part of the problem was that a judge dismissed the plaintiff's case against 26 defendants because the company had not technically acquired ownership of the patent.

The plan seemed smart in the beginning, but it missed by that much.

"Stupid Patent of the Month"

That ruling pulled the rug out from the plan to sue another 200 businesses over the patent. That led the Electronic Frontier Foundation to dub it the "Stupid Patent of the Month," and Ars Technica to out the failed business plan.

"This stupid patent was going to be used to sue hundreds of small businesses," the technology publication headlined.

It called CTP a "patent litigation factory," and highlighted the "inter partes review" that is used to "knock out bad patents quickly and relatively cheaply."

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