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
    Ronald J Riley (profile), 21 Mar 2010 @ 7:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: To be fair to Sawstop, they've probably done nothing wrong

    Mike Masnick said:

    "I do recognize how effective this is, but if that's the case, let's let it be mandated by consumer product safety law, not through a random trial."

    Obviously, a degree in economics does not necessarily instill actual understanding.

    It is not the court who mandates use of an available safety device, it would in all likelihood be the manufacturers liability insurance carrier who is going to say to the manufacturer they have to pay a hypothetical extra $200 per saw in insurance and adding the feature to the existing saws will cost a total of say $150.

    At this point the saw company willingly licenses.

    Now lets look at the dynamics of licensing. Inventor comes along as Sawstop did and offers very reasonable license rate because they are trying to break into the market. Saw maker turns the deal down.

    Later saw maker discovers they have a huge liability problem and saw stop has in the meantime created their own product and has a much larger investment.

    Guess what, saw manufacturer is no longer offered the bargain deal. Why should they?

    Now Sawstop gets to offer a package deal which now includes manufacturing know how and a few tubes of made in America KY to saw manufacturers making J&J a very happy company.

    Capitalism is alive and well. Why is it I have hand out this sort of "insight"?

    Since we know that there is a high probability that an entitlement minded saw company will try to ripoff Sawstop rather than license this is an open invitation to them to join the Professional Inventors Alliance. We will be quite happy to help them learn how to make any disreputable saw companies whine like a five year old about how mythical patent trolls are keeping them awake all night. Oops, there is another great "insight".

    Ronald J. Riley,


    I am speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

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