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Company Sued, Loses For Not Using Patented Tech 631

bdcrazy writes "A man was recently awarded $1.5M in a jury trial after his hand was injured by a Ryobi table saw. The saw did not include the patented 'Saw Stop' technology that the plaintiff argued would have prevented all the problems." 60 similar cases have now been filed nationwide. TechDirt makes the argument that this jury decision is completely crazy: "If the government is going to require companies to use a patented technology, it seems that the only reasonable solution is to remove the patent on it and allow competition in the market place." If the decision stands, not only will the price of table saws go way up, but other hungry patent-holders will probably get a gleam in their eye.
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Company Sued, Loses For Not Using Patented Tech

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  • by Trailer Trash ( 60756 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:09PM (#31543804) Homepage

    By his own logic, seems he should also be liable for not buying a saw using the "Saw Stop" technology. I hope the jury sees that.

  • by Joe The Dragon ( 967727 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:09PM (#31543806)

    sounds like a safety law suit jackpot and not a patent thing.

  • Horrible summary (Score:2, Insightful)

    by clang_jangle ( 975789 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:11PM (#31543830) Journal
    The case is not about patented software, it's about liability due to lack of modern safety technology. The fact that the currently accepted solution is patented is irrelevant, a FOSS alternative would be just as good.
  • by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:11PM (#31543842) Homepage Journal

    "If the government is going to require companies to use a patented technology"

    In this case, the "requirement" is not coming from the government, but from a jury... The lawsuit was not brought by a government agency, but by a private individual...

    Nice to see an opposition to government-required purchases, though... Health insurance, anyone?

  • When we decide that certain items must include certain safety features, we pass a law specifying that. Did anyone ever sue an auto manufacturer who did not include airbags? I don't think so. If we want all saws to have this technology, we need to pass a law, otherwise, this is a horrible blurring of the separation of powers, amounting to legislation from the judiciary.

    That being said, I don't think we should pass such a law. Power tool injuries are just too hilarious.

    "Whad'ya do there buddy?"

    "Oh, I chopped off all of my own fingers with a table saw."


  • by Tiger4 ( 840741 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:14PM (#31543894)

    A jury verdict is not a government order. The jury, for whatever reason, found that the plaintiff had a good argument and they agreed with him. That doesn't immediately mean every saw manufacturer must now and forever include this patented technology. Certainly it doesn't men they must license it at whatever price the patent holder demands. It only means the plaintiff had a good lawyer, Ryobi had a not so good one, and the jury decided Ryobi could have made a safer product. The rest is just outrageous hyperbole.

  • by VinylRecords ( 1292374 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:16PM (#31543920)

    ...that should be the title. Take the airbag that deploys in a car to help prevent death or serious injury in an automobile accident. The airbag is patented. []

    If a car company manufactures an automobile, and there is a production error, and the airbags aren't installed, they will be liable for damages suffered by the owners of the car who suffer accidents. They sold a product without standard safety features. It has nothing to do with a patent.

  • by sanosuke001 ( 640243 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:18PM (#31543938)
    It isn't irrelevant. This is setting precedent that if a company doesn't implement a patented technology, they are liable. This would pretty much force every company to license and implement every other companies' patents or be held responsible for any negative consequences.

    It might not be about software, but this isn't the "News for software nerds" and patent law is something a lot of the people at the site have strong opinions about.
  • sue everyone (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NeoXon ( 1718618 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:18PM (#31543944)
    Seems like Americans must always sue everyone even if they are simply stupid. Would you also sue a knife producing factory just because you did not know you could kill a human with it? Hello! It's your responsibility!
  • by twidarkling ( 1537077 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:20PM (#31543976)

    If the judgement stands, it becomes a precedent with legal force, requiring companies to follow it, since they'd be open to civil liabilities. That means it comes from the government.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:20PM (#31543982)

    The jury held that the law required the company to do so. The law requiring something is pretty much the definition of something being required by "the government".

    (And in any case, a jury is a government institution, albeit a temporarily constituted one.)

  • by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:22PM (#31544018) Journal

    This isn't about patents. It's worse. This is classic legislation from the bench. If we want all saws to have this safety feature, we need to pass a law. Otherwise, if you want this safety feature, spend the extra bucks to buy a saw that has it. Hopefully this ludicrous and dangerous precedent will be overturned on appeal.

  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:24PM (#31544066)

    When we decide that certain items must include certain safety features, we pass a law specifying that.

    We also have general product liability laws making manufacturer's liable for products where reasonable steps aren't taken to assure they are safe for their intended use.

    Often, the kind of more specific laws you refer to are actually exceptions to the more general liability rules, in that companies are specifically protected from liability for certain types of hazard provided that they provide features that meet certain standards.

    If we want all saws to have this technology, we need to pass a law, otherwise, this is a horrible blurring of the separation of powers, amounting to legislation from the judiciary.

    The accusation that this amounts to legislation by the judiciary really is an extraordinary claim which should be supported by specific reference to the asserted basis of the decision in this case and a substantial argument on how the decision is not justified by the law on which it is notionally based.

  • Re:But wait! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by selven ( 1556643 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:24PM (#31544072)

    And denying you the right to use cheap tools if you aren't worried about safety. You could argue that no one would willingly subject themselves to such a risk for a few tens of dollars, but why not put the cheap unsafe saws out there with some safety warnings and see if anyone actually wants them? If no one buys them, you don't need a law anyway. If some people buy them, then there's a demand for them and they should be allowed to be sold.

  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:25PM (#31544078)

    In this case, the "requirement" is not coming from the government, but from a jury...

    Last I looked, the courts were a branch of government.

  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:26PM (#31544086) Journal

    There is no mandate to implement an emergency stop in a table saw. Maybe there should be, but there isn't. So it ain't the same.

    Could you sue car-makers that did NOT introduce safety belts as soon as they became available?

    Mind you, I am in two minds about this. A working safety feature exists, so why is it not implemented? This story has come up before, and while the guy who has the patent wants money I find it hard to sympathize with the poor power-tool companies who of course do NOT expect to be paid for the patents they own.

    I think much like the seatbelt thing, this is a case of greed and not wanting devices to appear to be unsafe. Because maybe if you put on the box "can cut your finger off" people would just hire someone to do their DIY for them. Could ruin the entire industry.

  • By his own logic, seems he should also be liable for not buying a saw using the "Saw Stop" technology. I hope the jury sees that.

    Someone needs to ask the idiot, if he was gonna afford the extra cost that would have been added to get license for the patents? And, if yes, why didn't he do it in first place? And the jury must have been really dumb. The table saw company should have been only liable if the information they give about the materials/equipments used were misleading, exaggerated or wrong.

  • by Altus ( 1034 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:34PM (#31544192) Homepage

    And Home depot is liable for selling unsafe saws that lack the patented Saw Stop technology.

  • by lupis42 ( 1048492 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:41PM (#31544286)

    But this guy knowingly purchased a Ryobi, rather than a unit with SawStop, which was probably more expensive.

    Are all car manufacturers that don't implement Mercedes new radar-guided emergency braking systems now liable when drivers rear end someone?

  • Re:Horrible post (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bwcbwc ( 601780 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:43PM (#31544320)

    One thing this is not is legislation from the bench. For one thing it was a jury verdict, not a ruling from the judge. For another thing, there is existing law passed by the legislature, and regulations defined by the executive branch for requiring safety features on various devices (though not necessarily specific to saws).

    Where I can see the jury coming from is that the Ryobi saw was measurably less safe than the existing state of the art for such saws. They aren't necessarily requiring Ryobi to buy a license, but they are saying "either license the tech or develop your own that provides a comparable level of safety."

    However, I still disagree with the decision because there are plenty of safety features on saws, as well as standard practices to prevent accidents. The fact that most saws available still don't incorporate the patented tech means that while the state of the art is better, the generally accepted standard for safety is lower. Unless the legislature or the CPSC actively steps in to raise the safety standards to include flesh-detection technology, the generally accepted standard of safety should apply. This verdict sets the bar for "callous disregard for safety" way too low.

  • No it shouldn't (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Radical Moderate ( 563286 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:44PM (#31544334)
    The StopSaw tech is not a "standard safety device". It is only used by StopSaw. Airbags in cars sold in the US are mandated by federal law. There's no law mandating StopSaw. Whether there should be such a mandate is open to debate, but should not be decided by 12 randomly picked jurors.
  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:50PM (#31544402) Journal

    Anybody who knows anything about tools knows that brands like Ryobi and King are crap. Now, I've owned one or two myself (my King 4" angle grinder has lasted nearly five years so far), but I'm keenly aware that these will not perform as well as, say, a Makita, and it's likely there are functional issues.

    Table saws, at the best of times, are what guys who work with power tools like to refer to as "fucking dangerous". There are ways to certainly manufacture safer saws, but no matter whether you're using some cheap $200 bargain basement table saw or a top end unit is that you never stand in front of our behind the saw blade and just as importantly if you're ripping small pieces of wood, you don't feed them in with your hands. This is a good way to keep your hands intact.

    There isn't a tool that can be made safe enough to withstand an idiot.

  • by Samalie ( 1016193 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:53PM (#31544466)

    If you RTFA, you would see that they're trying to license for 3% of the wholesale value of the saws. Hardly half.

    The tool makers are balking because they feel the customers will be put off by the pricetag....$69 every time the saw brake engages, and $110 a blade (+ 3% increase in the wholesale cost of the saw). That might be true too...but hey, if you invented something, you'd want to make money off it too. And this is actually an invention, not the usual patent troll crap we see here on /.

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @06:01PM (#31544568)

    Indeed. the whole purpose of a patent is to protect novel inventions from being used by people other than the inventor.

    The consumer knew or was responsible to know that "Saw Stop" was a patented technology, and any device not advertising the technology implicitly does not have a similar safety feature.

    A patent holder has a right to deny use altogether, or charge exhorbitatnt fees to exercise their patent. So the person suing the company suggests, if the patent holder only sold or licensed the technology to one or two companies, only those companies can manufacture and market saws, and also, only their models the tech. is incorporated in can be sold (despite robust consumer demands for older models or refurbished units that don't have the tech) ?

    Because the technology is unique and novel.

    Novel and unique inventions are by definition not standard and probably not contained in the competitor's products.

    If the government wants to mandate a type of safety measure, that's one thing (but they will probably also have to buy out the patent holder, or provide an option everyone can implement without imposed royalties).

    In this case, there was no law mandating the safety feature. There is no standard of safety that is violated by not having the feature.

  • by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @06:03PM (#31544596)

    brands like Ryobi and King are crap


    I have a Ryobi table saw and it's perfectly fine for what it is. Would I use it to build a house? No. It's not meant for that. Is it a good-value table saw for cutting up the odd sheet of plywood or ripping the odd 2x6? Absolutely. It's a basic, easy-to-use light-duty table saw that I use 'now and again'. You need to buy products that align with the purpose for which they're intended, and Ryobi fits that niche nicely. They're not more, nor do they claim to be.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 19, 2010 @06:12PM (#31544714)

    I can show you a picture of a person wrapped around a lathe


  • by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @06:18PM (#31544782)

    The problem is that there is a simple, preexisting and free way to use a table saw where you never risk getting limbs cut off. This method has been available to everyone since table saws were invented. Here it is: Do not put your limbs in the damn saw blade while it is spinning.

    When driving a car there is no way for a driver to ensure that other drivers are not going to hit them and risk injury that could be mitigated by an airbag.

  • Re:Horrible post (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 19, 2010 @06:20PM (#31544814)

    One thing this is not is legislation from the bench.

    You're right - it's legislation from the jury box. So instead of having an experienced legal expert make the law, we've let a bunch of yoyos too stupid and/or unemployable to get out of jury duty do it. Wow, what an improvement.

  • responsibility (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zugok ( 17194 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @06:37PM (#31544992)

    Though this may be about patents, this is also about whom has the responsibility of safety. Its dangerous to put the responsibility of safety in technology and not on the operator. Technology will fail and people need to know how to react when that happens. In this case, sure Ryobi can get a licence to use the technology but it but the operator should just have been more careful.

  • by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @07:08PM (#31545356)

    If you are using your saw correctly you will never be in a situation where a "normal" accident will cause you to loose a thumb.

    Someone startles you!, You are distracted! Good thing you were using the saw correctly (not standing over the blade, using a push block for small pieces, etc) and didn't have your hand within inches of the blade. You might have gotten hurt if you were doing something wrong.

    Someone pushes you into the blade! Quick, run out and sue the guy who made a sidewalk that a criminal decided to bash your head against.

    Something weird happens, like the building collapses, a car drives through your garage, magical gremlins pick up the saw and throw it at you. Well, you just might loose a thumb. Oh well.

    A roofing hammer is more dangerous under normal operation than a table saw. You actually have to place your finger at the point you are aiming for as you strike. You miss the nail or the nail fails, punches through, deflects the blow and you can smash a finger bad enough to require amputation. With a table saw, you never have to put yourself in harms way. It requires extraordinary external interference or doing something stupid to loose a thumb to a table saw.

    Imagine buying a roofing hammer instead of a nail gun because it is cheaper. Then imagine roofing with a blindfold on and smashing your finger badly. If you had bought a nail gun instead, you could have avoided smashing your finger while blindfolded. Now imagine suing the maker of the hammer for this reason. This is analogous to what happened here.

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @07:15PM (#31545418)

    Do not stand at either end of a table saw. Use a device to push with and stand out of the way of the object being cut.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @07:18PM (#31545440) Journal

    The issue here is that a sensible person realizes the risk of table saws. I have no doubt that the Ryobi table saw in question had a manual which clearly detailed out safe operation, and one of the key elements of operating any kind of motorized saw is keeping your fucking hands away from the fucking blade. My el-cheapo table saw even comes with a template I can use to make a small wooden tool to push small pieces through the saw to keep my hands safe, and goes on for several pages about the various ways in which the table saw can cause you serious injury. I think the manufacturer did all it could reasonably do to assure my safety. If I still choose to put my hands in harms way, then I've got nobody to blame but myself.

  • by sdpuppy ( 898535 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @07:38PM (#31545598)

    some safety solutions should exist.

    Sure - all tables saws have splitters and blade guards which make it somewhat more difficult to get injured unless you're inattentive or all thumbs.

    Would be nice if you had that finger detector thingy for the blade, but you get what you pay for - be nice if all cars had better side reinforcing and other safety equipment, but then price is one reason people get SUVs (which, besides bulk, tend to have fewer safety features than regular cars).

    In addition, any wood worker ( or as enthusiasts humbly call themselves - "wood butchers" ) worth his/her salt knows basic safety methods such as keeping the work place clean and clear, make setting before turning power on, use a push stick for smaller pieces of wood, don't cross hands (especially when near the blade), leave the beer for after the woodworking, and if you ever need to remove the safety equipment, and there are times when you need to do this, you treat the process as if you were balancing the sharp end of a meat clever on your d!(k - be very alert and proceed very very carefully - no wrong moves or lose something important (important to youself anyhow).

  • Re:Horrible post (Score:5, Insightful)

    by u38cg ( 607297 ) <> on Friday March 19, 2010 @07:54PM (#31545770) Homepage
    I'm reminded of a Pratchett quote. "Safe? It's not meant to be safe. It's a sword." Really, when you purchase a cutting disc that spins around at several thousand RPM and sticks up out of a flat surface, you should expect to cut the odd minor appendage off occasionally and act accordingly.
  • by rattaroaz ( 1491445 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @08:09PM (#31545912)

    Of course. But I wouldn't want to make money off it in this way, by effectively threatening to sue anyone who arranges saw parts in a certain way unless they pay me royalties. I prefer to get paid for doing work, rather than charging rent on work I did 20 years earlier.

    Let me guess: you're not an American. Because I would LOVE to be paid bucketloads of money for something I invented 20 years ago . . . only I would REALLY prefer if it was life + 20 years, so the rest of my lazy family could benefit from that as well. Once the time comes up though, I'm sure someone will argue that life + 100 is more fair, so I'm not too worried. Because I really shouldn't have to do more work. I did enough 20 years ago!

  • by Radical Moderate ( 563286 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @10:09PM (#31546628)
    The actual cost of the technology is not 3 to 8 percent. That is the amount SawStop will charge to LICENSE the technology. The article does not mention what it will cost to actually build and install the technology. But it's worth noting that SawStop can't seem to do it for less than $1600--in an admittedly very nice, upscale saw.

    So assume a competitor cuts corners and can build a saw with SawStop technology for half of what SawStop can. That's still $800. Too much for a lot of us.

    Based on that article we can't tell what it will cost. We know that repairing it costs $169, and that Ryobi and others felt that using it in their saws would be too expensive. I can't see how you can put a unit that takes $169 in repair parts in to a $100 saw.
  • by MaskedSlacker ( 911878 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @10:27PM (#31546738)

    That logic is retarded, and obviously (and trivially) fallacious.

    If it were true, then auto companies that include more safety features in higher end cars would be similarly liable.

    HINT: They aren't.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 20, 2010 @01:46AM (#31547602)
    yeah, but we don't use windshields or hot tubs to rip wood apart

    assuming that a windshield will not decapitate you is reasonable, as is assuming that a hot tub will not disembowel you, but assuming that a table saw is perfectly safe is just fucking stupid. if you do not at some point realize that the big spinning blade making that unholy screeching noise might be fucking dangerous, then you deserve to lose every digit you have
  • by badran ( 973386 ) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @05:50AM (#31548302)

    You are missing a big point. If they add this tech, then their saws will useless in damp, highly humid, or RF polluted environments. Do you think the guy who has an el-cheapo model or even a contractor with a top of the line model will be happy replacing a saw every time something wet hit the blade or some static builds up.... From the explanation I would assume that this would be triggered by a drop of sweat or a sneeze or RF polution.

    The manufacturers are not adding this tech because they want their saws to be dangerous, they are not adding this because it would cripple their saws.

    As most people said, a person should know that the a freaking blade and especially a blade spinning as fast as a table saw blade is dangerous and is not a toy.

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer