An incredible bit of patent abuse has been uncovered in the US, where a series of companies are trying to claim a patent on the act of scanning docs and emailing them -- and is asking for $1,000 per employee to overlook this apparent offence.

The case, reported by Ars Technica, saw a company by the name of Project Paperless LLC hitting businesses in Atlanta with legal claims for money to cover the act of scanning docs. Business owner Steven Vicinanza contacted the lawyers making the claim, to be told that they do indeed have a vague patent that covers the act of scanning and emailing files.

But rather than sue copier companies, the patent owner was simply going through lists of businesses, hitting them in order of number of employees, to maximise potential payouts from panicking owners. Some did pay, too, with one company apparently in the process of being acquired by another paying the demand to avoid any further hassle. [Ars]

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