Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell

Vermont has always been a leader in certain areas — maple syrup and skiing come to mind — but now, thanks to Attorney General Bill Sorrell, the Green Mountain State is taking the lead in the nationwide fight against patent trolls. 

Sorrell first learned of the patent troll problem through media reports, but not long afterward, he heard from the people of his state. Hi-tech companies and small businesses alike came to the attorney general’s office with complaints that companies were receiving demand letters from patent trolls. These letters, Sorrell told me in an exclusive interview, sought payment licensing fees in timespans as short as two weeks, and companies often received more than one such letter in short order. 

The biggest culprit of this tactic was MPHJ Technologies, LLC, a company that is also on the radar of other state attorneys general such as Lori Swanson of Minnesota and Jon Bruning of Nebraska. Sorrell found that the organization was sending letters to small businesses and non-profits, demanding that they pay up immediately because they are violating patents by scanning documents and attaching them to emails through a computer network.

Sorrell targeted MPHJ for violating the Vermont Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits unfair and deceptive acts and practices in commerce in the state. While this was going on, the Vermont state legislature was putting together a bill to address the same issues. Now signed into law, the “Bad Faith Assertions of Patent Infringement” law is designed to protect legitimate patent holders while dealing with the types of suits that are brought by patent trolls. 

After Vermont blazed the trail toward patent trolls, other states followed suit, and Sorrell stated that attorneys general around the country are focused on this topic. To foster discussion between government and the private sector, Sorrell will take part in a roundtable discussion in New York City on Nov. 19. The roundtable will also feature Jon Bruning and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster. For more information or to sign up for the event, click here.


To read more about patent trolls, check out the stories below:


USPTO director talks challenges and change at AIPLA conference

New report examines the economic cost of patent trolls

Senators from both parties call for patent reform