A mysterious patent-holding company in the United States is reportedly demanding up to $1,000 each from users of scanners.
The story, extensively reported by Ars Technica, is said to illustrate the absurdities of the American patent system.
As reported by Ars, a company ('Project Paperless LLC'), which holds patents related to scanning documents and sending them over a network, sent a demand of $1,000 per user of scanners to a company called BlueWave Computing.
That would have left its owner, Steven Vicinanza, with a bill of more than $130,000.
READ MORE: Ars Technica's Project Paperless piece
After a lengthy battle Vicinanza won a "pretty resounding" victory, Ars said, but that didn't solve the problem. Now up to eight different companies are sending similar letters demanding payment to businesses in New Hampshire and Minnesota, again demanding between $900 and $1,200 per user of scanners.
The problem is that in similar cases, companies will often settle to avoid the expense of a legal battle - even if the patent claims have little to no chance of standing up in court.
In a press release sent after his victory, Vincinanza said:
"Upon doing some research on the patent system in our country, I realized that patent trolling schemes are big business for law firms and companies like Project Paperless LLC, which exist soley to profit from a broken patent system.
"I discovered that such companies are referred to as patent trolls, due to the fact that they do not produce any products, or perform any services."
The initial lawsuit has now led to an "information resource" named Project Paperless, which aims to give information and help to those affected.
Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing said the story illustrated that "patents are totally, utterly broken".