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. identicon
    Just a lowly inventor, 19 Mar 2010 @ 3:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hairbrained Argument

    It would seem that all of you who wrote in opposition to my post are in desperate need of some basic understanding of business, economics, and finance. You can't have "free" anything without reasonable boundaries of protection, and in any "free market", the definition of those boundaries is paramount. It is ludicrous to assume that ANY unprotected investment - financial, personal, or invention - would not be unfairly infringed upon (Read: stolen), were it not for reasonable protections.

    We develop and patent technologies and products as a business. Without the protection afforded by the USPTO, we could not:
    1) Secure investors or lines of credit
    2) License what we have developed (no risk-adverse company with distribution will take that gamble for most technology-driven products)
    3) Secure strategic corporate or distribution partners for unique and innovative products and technologies
    4) Securely tool up for mass production (yeah, we're a Made in the USA company...having our technology and/or products stolen by off-shore or domestic thieves whose sole expense beyond "carbon copying" our technology/products is the tooling, making their ROI attractive while in turn making ours uninvestable, is just plain financial suicide)
    5) Assert any vehicle in a civil manner in order to gain financial remuneration for theft
    6) Etc., etc., etc...I could go on and on...and by the way: technically, we are defined as a "small business".

    I question who, among the posters, is representative of an actual business concern that, by their inherent job responsibility, must actually be fiscally responsible to anyone other than themselves.

    As for the humorous "creating artificial jobs": are you kidding? We employ dozens in manufacturing, who produce what we have developed and then patent-protected. Now, if you are referring to the "artificial jobs" that are to provide unnecessary services to a nation desperately in need of "tangible wealth producers", well then, I agree with you.

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