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
    kaw (profile), 13 May 2010 @ 11:56am

    Re: You don't really

    In reponse to:

    "Just keep your fingers away from the blade. It's a dangerous tool with a lot of power. KEEP YOUR FINGERS A-W-A-WAY."

    All of the complexities of this case aside, I never understand this argument. I do applaude what I think is your intent; to urge safety. But,I don't think many injured parties meant to get their fingers into the blade. I suppose that the typical user knows its a good idea to keep his/her fingers away from the blade. Yet there are thousand of TS related injuries every year. Carelessness and complacency account for some, but there are also unexpected things that happen, and nobody is perfectly safe all of the time. Belive me, I am a dentist and a musician. My fingers are especially valuable to me, and I am ultra safe with tools. But I have to admit, I have had incidents (fortunately minor, but could have been otherwise) due to momentary lapses, or circustances beyond my control. I'm thankful to have such an ingenius and effective safety device available, ablbeit as a fail-safe of last resort.

    I know to "just keep my fingers away from the blade" so it is not particularily useful or comforting advice. If I cmae into contact with the blade for WHATEVER reason, I'd like the blade to stop. One might ask of the 700+ people who have had minimized injuries thanks to the SawStop technology, and those who have lost a finger or worse, if keeping away from the blade, or using a state of the art safety mechanism is better advice.

    I don't like lawsuits and mandates, and am not expert enough to comment on those issuses. But to the general arguments either against or dismissing a highly effective safety technology, I have to wholeheartedly disagree. Some things just plain work. Seatbelts, airbags, helmets, life jackets, etc. To not use them is irresponsible. And forget the "it's my/their choice" defense, as we all end up sharing in the costs of insurance, medical treatment, litigation and so on.

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