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By asserting dubious patents against countless small businesses around the country, MPHJ Technology Investments LLC has developed a reputation as one of the most shameless "patent trolls" around. But has it broken the law? The state of Vermont clearly thinks so, and it intends to do something about it.

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office announced Wednesday that it’s brought a civil case against MPHJ in Vermont state court. In a groundbreaking move, state prosecutors allege that MPHJ violated consumer protection laws by making deceptive claims to would-be licenses. (Here’s the complaint, filed on May 8 but sealed until process was served on MPHJ.)

Through a web of shell companies, MPHJ has sent letters to thousands of businesses urging them to pay $1,000 per employee for supposedly infringing its "distributed computer architecture" patents. According to the AG’s complaint, MPHJ’s targets include a home for the developmentally disabled and a nonprofit that helps the disabled with fiscal matters.

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