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
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2010 @ 6:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hairbrained Argument

    and lets not forget, Google was the first to offer E - Mail with gigabytes of storage along with so many other features that were then later copied. Firefox came up with so many new features that were copied by microsoft (tabbed browsing and the easy to use search feature that firefox has, the ctrl+f button, among others. and Microsoft stole many ideas from Linux, I even heard a Microsoft rep admit it at my school that they tweaked a bunch of Windows 7 settings and nothing worked well until they eventually decided to tweak them to do what linux does. Yet firefox, linux, Google are still used. No one cries, "Microsoft copied us" though people do cry, "Microsoft gets to copy others but doesn't allow others to copy it.").

    The fact is that society has incentive to ensure that honest inventors succeed without the government's help. People favor Google over Viacom in a lawsuit or anything because Google is honest and Viacom is not. People will naturally buy from and contribute to and support honest businesses that innovate because their success is in our best interest.

    The only thing the government does by granting patents is enable some business to freely act dishonestly and still not lose business to competitors because consumers who need a product are forced to buy from a dishonest entity. and the fact that a corporation would demand monopoly power is a sign of increased selfishness and such a selfish entity is more likely to act unethically and abuse its monopoly power and abuse the patent system itself. Amazon, by abusing its one click buy patent, loses a lot of respect.

    Another example I remember reading here on techdirt is that some company that produced red light cameras for the government noticed that it lost ten percent of its sales in other products from customers who didn't like its business conduct and thought it was unethical. and I agree, in a free market with free information flow (ie: thanks to the Internet, because the mainstream media is worse than useless) people will go out of their way to avoid a product from an unethical company and the company that benefits from these red light cameras (along with the government) is acting unethically by helping our government subject its citizens to unnecessary tyranny.

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