A recently-formed Delaware-based limited liability company called High Quality Printing Inventions, LLC, has been filing patent infringement cases in the U.S. District Courts in a litigation campaign against several printing companies using common web-to-print functionality. It appears that High Quality Printing Inventions is a non-practicing entity, a patent troll, formed for the sole purpose of seeking royalty payments.

The patent includes 20 claims covering web-enabled print systems that include product specification and design interfaces that utilize templated documents to create mass-customized business forms or brochures. The patent is US Patent 6012070:A Digital design station procedure. The claims describe common functionally of systems that many printing companies have offered in web-to-print storefronts, collateral management and e-commerce platforms for years.

The history of the patent starts in 1996 when Moore Business Forms, Inc., (now R.R. Donnelley) filed the patent application. The patent was granted January 4, 2000. In March of this year, the patent was updated to formally assign the ownership to R.R. Donnelley. The change of assignment from the Moore business to R.R. Donnelley was most likely in preparation for a sale or licensing of the patent to High Quality Printing Inventions, LLC. At the time of publication, R.R. Donnelley has not responded to requests for comment on the current ownership of the patent, its relationship or business dealings with High Quality Printing Inventions, LLC.

According to legal database searches, High Quality Printing Inventions, LLC has filed at least 32 patent infringement cases against 35 printing companies that have web-enabled print capabilities as a primary outlet for their businesses. The defendants include:

Angstrom Graphics Inc
Avery Dennison Corporation
Barton Cotton Affinity Group, LLC
Bay State Envelope, Inc.
Cardphile, Inc.
CardsDirect, Inc.
Cardstore, Inc.
Cimpress N.V.
Deluxe Corp.
Farheap Solutions Incorporated (OvernightPrints Incorporated)
Great FX Business Cards, LLC
Hallmark Cards Incorporated
Invitation Consultants, Inc.
Luxe Cards, LLC
Master Marketing International
Minted LLC
Moo, Inc.
Office Depot Incorporated
PaperDirect, Inc.
Pear Tree Greetings, Inc.
Posty Cards, Inc.
PrintingForLess.com Incorporated
Printograph Incorporated
Prudent Publishing Co., Inc.
Shutterfly Incorporated
Simply To Impress LLC
Taylor Corporation (123Print Incorporated and Everglades Direct, Inc.)
Thayer Publishing, Inc.
Worldwide Tickets and Labels Inc.
Zazzle, Inc.

All of the defendants in the current batch of lawsuits appear to have one thing in common: a majority of the companies have developed in-house "web-to-print" software to power their e-commerce services or are using highly customized off-the-shelf products. At this time, no infringement claims have been made against suppliers to the industry that develop off the shelf "web-to-print" software solutions with functionality similar to that used by the current defendants. The focus on printing companies rather than suppliers to the industry seems to be a strategy of High Quality Printing Inventions, LLC, and its outside legal team who likely would prefer not to target vendors who may have deeper pockets for legal defense and more sophisticated legal teams. Targeting printing companies may, from their perspective, be a way to make some quick settlement cash.

If High Quality Printing Inventions follows the modus operandi of other recent patent trolls, the current list of defendants is likely an initial phase in a scheme to shake money from printing companies. The current defendant list appears to be a strategic mix of small, medium and large printing companies. How these companies react and respond will provide this patent troll with insight on how to expand its litigation campaign against many other printing firms.

WhatTheyThink will continue to follow this situation as it develops and we have other similar patent trolls in our sights as well.