That is an interesting operation to say the least. Why would a patent holder threaten to sue a small user like Mr. Vicinanza when the patent holder's legal costs would surely be more than what they could hope to recover in the suit.
But even more curious is why the scanner users don't turn the matter over to the manufacturer they purchased the scanner from, e.g. Canon or Xerox? As the article notes "After all, they have patent lawyers on payroll already and are in a far better position to push back." While it isn't directly stated in the article, I strongly suspect that Mr. Vicinanza tried to do this and the manufacturer(s) wouldn't stand behind their equipment.
Or can it be that the scanner company knows it is building infringing scanners, won't do the right thing and take a license from the patent owner (or stop selling infringing scanners) but wants to sell the infringing scanners to unsuspecting users? Reading between the lines it appears that the manufacturers don't want to defend their products. Otherwise why did Vicinanza have to sue them. "He also hired a new lawyer, Ann Fort, who filed a third-party complaint against four of the companies that actually made the scanners—Xerox, Canon, Hewlett-Packard, and Brother." It appears to me that the scanner manufacturers are squarely in the middle of this problem. If you want to change the law, in my view the best change would be to force the manufacturers who sell equipment to indemnify their customers against infringement claims.
According to survey responses, patents for novel inventions play a generally positive and at times crucial role for startups. They help to transfer technology, enable investment, and improve exits, particularly in bio/pharma industries. But patent assertions by NPEs [Non-Practicing Entities: a polite term for patent trolls], which at times hit startups when they are least able to fight them — on the eve of a funding or acquisition event, or, 40% of the time, in the context of the startups' customers — can have significant and at times devastating impacts on companies.
@LoggerMN: Interesting idea about only rewarding patents from practicing companies. But some small inventors claim they haven't the time to enforce their rights and WANT specilists ( some call trolls) to do it for them.
Right now, the USA system is almost always "defendant pays". Even if a defendant prevails in a patent infrigement suit and can get a Marshall, Texas jury to agree that a patent is invalid, the defendant still has to pay its own costs, often US$millions. Patent trolls know this, and basically run an extortion racket: pay us the Danegelt or we'll make you pay far more than that in legal costs.
"Loser pays" evens the playing field -- if a troll knows that the suit is likely to fail and that they'll be stuck paying the defendant's costs, the entire patent troll business model crumbles.
Maybe we should give patent inventors greater rights than someone that buys a patent from the inventor. An entity which buys a patent, and then tries to enforce it with law suits should be liable if they fail to show infringement. That entity is obviously building a busieness case around "monotizing under utilized" patents. That is not the kind of "innovation" patent law should be striving for. However, true inventors could retain their existing rights. Which is the kind of innovation we are looking for.
That remains completely separate from what things we should allow to be patented, as well as how long patents should be. I think those issues should be addressed as well, but they are harder questions to answer. Shutting down second-hand patent owners (trolls) should be something we can all agree on.