Since Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden, people have been lashing wood together for shelter. As any watcher of numerous survivor shows will tell you, a shelter is only as good as its ability to keep out the water. And, when a shelter gets wet, it needs to be dried out or mold will grow. For contractors in the Pacific Northwest, this is nothing new.
Enter the father and son team of Andrew R. and Robert A. Weisenberger. In October 2013, the U.S. Patent Office granted the Weisenbergers Patent No. 8,567,688 entitled “Moisture Reduction and Mold and Moisture Preventative System and Method in Construction.” The Weisenbergers’ patented the process of drying out a home that appears as obvious as boiling a pot of water to cook pasta. The Weisenbergers’ patent consists of the following steps:
- Measure the moisture content in a “plurality” of locations in the room that is wet;
- Determine whether the moisture content is too high;
- Run a “drying device” such as “a dehumidifier, a space heater, and an air moving device”; and
- “Seal off the area being treated with a vapor barrier.”
Since then, a company called Savannah IP, Inc. has been serving contractors in the Pacific Northwest with patent infringement notices and demanding these contractors pay a licensing fee for drying out homes using their now patented 4-step process. Savannah IP, Inc. does not appear to actually supply any service using this patent. Consequently, Savannah IP, Inc. could be considered a textbook Patent Troll.
The Oregon Attorney General, Ellen Rosenblum, has taken notice. In fact, Oregon recently passed a patent reform law, SB 1540. Effective June 2014, a person who receives a demand to pay a licensing fee based on a bad faith assertion of patent infringement may have a claim under Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act. And, under Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act, any person who has suffered any ascertainable loss as a result of an act deemed an unlawful trade practice may recover actual damages, or $200 in statutory damages, whichever is greater, plus attorneys’ fees.
Contractors who have received demand letters for licensing fees for supposedly infringing on a patent should consult with experienced counsel. While your first reaction may be “You Patented What?,” your next step should be to determine whether you have a troll on your job site.