With the recent change in the law allowing anyone to sue and collect half the fine for themselves, "Anyone can look at a product and see if it has an expired patent number and can sue. It's caused the opening of the floodgates," said patent attorney Tom Bejin at Radar Fishman & Grauer, a Michigan firm, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday.
"The economic incentive went from zero to 60 in three seconds," Bejin said.
Another attorney, Robert Brandenburg of the firm Brooks Kushman said, "You have opportunistic attorneys who basically just troll for people who've left a patent number on a product."
The recent change has left Sal Herman, the founder of Holdup Suspender, to spend $30,000 hiring workers to grind expired patent numbers off of metal clips that keep suspenders from slipping off of pants.
It also may cost him $50 million, as the fine is now $500 for each violation -- for every suspender sold, that is -- and he sold 40,000 suspenders with expired patent numbers in the past two years.
He says it was an inadvertent mistake. He runs a business with three employees, none of them a staff patent attorney. His wife works for him.
But he is being sued by Unique Product Solutions, which has filed at least two other patent rights violation lawsuits based on similar technicalities.
Concerning its case against Holdup Suspender, Unique Product Solutions said in court papers that the marked suspender clips gave others the false impression that manufacturing the clips would be a patent violation.
Herman called the lawsuit "extortion."
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