Tool Maker Loses Lawsuit For Not Violating Another Company's Patents

from the exclusivity? dept

Patent system supporters regularly point (slightly misleadingly) to the claim that the patent system gives patent holders the right to exclude others from using their inventions. And, thus, most lawsuits we see around patents revolve around cases involving a company manufacturing a product that includes a patented invention. But what about a lawsuit for a company that deliberately chose not to license or use a patented technology, because it was too expensive?

Welcome to today's world.

A few years back, there was a lot of attention paid to videos from a company called SawStop that made a pretty cool product that protected your fingers from a table saw. You may have seen the videos:
The company tried to license the invention to various table saw makers, but after evaluating the technology, many were not convinced how well it worked and felt that the cost was way too high (both for themselves, and for consumers). In fact, some appeared to fear that if they did adopt this technology and then someone still got hurt, they were asking for a big lawsuit for promoting this technology as a safety feature.

But what about the other way around? Could someone be so bold as to actually sue for using a table saw that did not have this technology?

ChurchHatesTucker alerts us to the story of a lawsuit in Boston that involved a guy whose hand was damaged in a table saw accident while using a table saw from Ryobi. The guy's complaint was that Ryobi should have included this technology and that it should be required to protect hands. And, amazingly, the jury sided with the guy.

Yes, you read that right. The jury effectively claimed that any table saw maker is liable for injuries if it does not license this technology and build it into its table saws.

That, of course, conflicts with that basic "exclusivity" part of patent law -- and would effectively mean that SawStop has now been given total defacto control over who can be allowed to sell table saws in the US. That clearly is not what the law was intended to do. The government should never require companies to have to purchase a patent license for a technology they don't believe the market wants. And, in this case, the ruling has resulted in numerous other lawsuits against other table saw makers -- and a near guarantee that the price of table saws will go way up. Old saws can't be retrofitted, and table saw makers need to totally change their manufacturing process and greatly increase costs to offer this technology.

This seems blatantly wrong. If the government is going to require companies to use a patented technology, it seems that the only reasonable solution is to remove the patent on it and allow competition in the market place.

Filed Under: patents, requirements, safety, saws
Companies: ryobi, sawstop


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  1. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 19 Mar 2010 @ 2:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Hairbrained Argument

    Without patent attorneys and US patent law (which arguably needs an overhaul in several key areas), lowly inventors (like me)and the backbone-of-America companies that employ us would not even exist.

    This is provably false. Study after study after study after study have shown that there is no direct causal impact between patent law and innovation. In fact, multiple studies have shown *greater* innovation in countries without patents. Other studies that looked at innovation before and after patent laws changed have also found that stronger patent laws hindered innovation rather than helped it.

    Your tirade clearly indicates a lack of knowledge, irrational and misplaced anger, and ignorance. I am always amused by laypersons who are outraged about the protections patents afford, while egregiously ignorant of the business, financial, and intellectual investments that are put at risk if no system existed at all.

    I'm quite familiar with all of them. In fact, given that your first sentence is provably false, I'm guessing that I'm more familiar with these issues than you are.

    The USPTO actually protects the free market, bonehead, and those who make the huge investments that it takes to bring a product to market (otherwise, bonehead, it is easily stolen, the investment worthless, and NO THINKING PERSON would EVER develop anything ever again).

    Again, this is provably false. Countries without patents have had just as much, if not greater, innovation. That's because you falsely seem to think that a patent is the final product. It is not. The product is the final product, and there is plenty of incentive to create new products: to sell them... even in the absence of patents.

    As for USPTO protecting the free market, that is laughable. It is not a free market when the gov't is granting monopolies. It's the exact opposite of one.

    Now, you can make the argument (even though the evidence shows otherwise) that such monopolies are necessary to promote the progress, but you cannot correctly claim that the patent system represents a free market. It is the antithesis of one.

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