flickr user: davesag

A batch of patents alleged to cover simple scan-to-e-mail functions gained notoriety last year when they were used to demand $1,000 per worker from small businesses around the country.

The anonymously owned MPHJ Technology Investments has been denounced in Congress and held up as a poster child for a system run amok.
While eyebrow-raising patent claims have been on the rise for years, MPHJ’s claims stood out.

Attorneys general in Vermont and Nebraska have attacked MPHJ in court, saying the company’s vague demand letters violate state consumer-protection laws.
After a year of threats, MPHJ filed its first actual lawsuit in November.

Now, a batch of four new suits have been filed against three large companies and one medium-sized one.

The defendants, all sued on January 3 in Delaware, are: the Coca-Cola Company (PDF); Dillard’s (PDF), a department store that operates in 29 states and has about 38,000 employees; Unum Group (PDF), a Tennessee-based insurance company with over 10,000 workers; and Huhtamaki (PDF), a consumer goods and packaging company with 400 employees.

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