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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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  • Re:Saw Stop is great (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:22PM (#31544034) Journal

    Yeah? So it is less of a burden to replace my fingers?

    If it isn't, then you pay $169 more for a saw that'll save your fingers.

    Otherwise, you do what this guy did: buy the cheap saw, lose your finger, then sue because you bought the cheap saw.

  • by Tiger4 ( 840741 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:36PM (#31544236)

    Perhaps. But even then it is a business decision. Not until some regulatory agency forces them to put a particular device on the product is a requirement. Until then, they only pay a penalty if someone buys a product, gets injured, sues, and wins. Which means including it or not is a business decision, not a mandate. Remember Ford Pintos and the exploding gas tanks? Supposedly $8 times however many they sold was more expensive than the few lawsuits they would defend, so no gas tank shields.

    And the next time around maybe the manufacturer will have a better case for why they didn't need to include the safety stop feature. Or maybe the appeals court will not uphold the verdict, or uphold it for a lesser amount. $1.5M is really not a whole lot of money in the world of power tools. Not enough to change your whole production line.

  • by mi ( 197448 ) <slashdot-2017q4@virtual-estates.net> on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:39PM (#31544270) Homepage Journal

    The jury held that the law required the company to do so.

    The jury found [oregonlive.com], that saws without such devices are defective. I agree, that this is nonsense, but most people cheered, when an automaker was crucified [findlaw.com] for not making their gas tank safer. GM did not break any law, but were found responsible for the deaths anyway.

    The saws weren't defective before the device was invented, but they are now — according to the jury...

    There is a much worse example of this problem, one that actually involves the (Executive) Government — I am talking about building codes, which get tightened every year. An unelected government official can force you to rebuild your house "to code" whenever you ask them for a building permit. But we don't read about that outrage in newspapers...

  • by __aasqbs9791 ( 1402899 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:57PM (#31544506)

    I hear you. I think the plaintiff in this case would be surprised to hear that I once had a class of high school freshman (including myself) using saws like that all year long and not one of use required medical attention!

  • This is ridiculous (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MattskEE ( 925706 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @06:02PM (#31544586)

    It's not a consumer product safety standard and Ryobi shouldn't be held liable for making table saws the same way they've been made for decades. If the customer wanted a more expensive saw with which was safer he should have bought one. Instead he bought a Ryobi saw but apparently he has buyer's remorse since he is suing them for selling exactly what he wanted to buy.

    This system apparently adds ~$150 to the purchase price of the saw, plus $170 every time it triggers (new brake and new blade), so it's hardly a foregone conclusion that all saws should have it, given that most people never injure themselves on their power tools. To be fair a table saw is often regarded as the most dangerous common power tool, but that's why you always treat it very carefully and follow certain safety rules like using a "push stick" instead of putting your hand near the blade. It's a lot like using a vertical bandsaw.

    If you read the article you see that the lawyer who filed this suit was hired by the user's health insurance company. So that's the real story: the health insurance company doesn't want to pay for people injuring themselves with power tools. So the user gets a settlement, the health insurance probably gets a portion of it, and the lawyer definitely gets a portion of it.

  • by QRDeNameland ( 873957 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @06:18PM (#31544776)
    And the government is liable for not having whatever relevant regulatory body require all saws to have the patented Saw Stop technology.
  • FTFA... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @06:28PM (#31544886) Homepage Journal

    "Last week, a Boston jury ..."

    That's all I needed to read to understand. While East Texas juries are reknown for their patent infringement jurisprudence, Boston juries never met a victim they didn't love, no matter the circumstances. And they never met a corporation they didn't think deserved to pay out a little cash. No surprise at all here.

    The secondary problem is that saw manufacturers are well aware of SawStop technology, but refuse to give it any credence. They both ignore and discreidt it for three reasons:

    1) To admit it is effective is to make it desireable for their products, and implicitly state that their products are less safe than they might otherwise be.

    2) To actually incorporate it in their products wuld increase prices, possibly to the point that sales could decline. A little.

    3) SawStop is expensive - when it is triggered, you get to replace the triggered components AND the saw blade. Yes, please stop the flames, I KNOW IT IS CHEAPER THAN A FINGER OR THUMB. But it will annoy people who have to pay out $100-$200 or more very time they trip it. And many will claim it 'just triggered' and demand refunds and free parts. Witness the Prius fiasco, with at least one likely hoax. Multiply that by thouands. Just saying.

    4) Admitting your product is this dangerous will bring out all the past victims demanding compensation. You think asbestos was expensive?

    Now, I've seen SawStop demonstrated. It is frighteningly effective. And the testimonials are similarly shocking. Like a school teacher testifying that it saved him and a student's thumb the first semester it was used. I was taught safety as part of everything I did with a table saw, and the demonstration back then was, coincidentally, a hot dog. Boy, does a Delta saw go through hot dogs real good... We understood that our fingers would not be saved. And our teacher failed one kid and sent him to study hall after he violated safety procedures a third time. I know this teacher saved me a finger 25 years later. I might buy a SawStop some day, but I watch what I'm doing, and I don't do enough to become comfortable and lazy. Yet.

    SawStop is expensive to use, but the cost of a finger/thumb/whatever makes that a bargain. One most saw users will just not pay. Do you know any long-time woodworkers? How many of them have all their digits? Not 100%, I bet.

    But the industry is avoiding this until the patents expire, and then they can incorporate it and charge up the wazoo. IF they can get over the potential liability, the false claims of false triggering to avoid the parts cost, and the inevitable claims for injuries where the victim will say it didn't work.

    And you can bypass SawStop on a saw, slice off something, and reconnect it. Niiice. Of course, who leaves blade guards and kickback pawls on anyways...

    We are our own worst enemies. And we expect someone else to pay.

  • by harrkev ( 623093 ) <kfmsd@@@harrelsonfamily...org> on Friday March 19, 2010 @07:26PM (#31545502) Homepage

    I investigated the SawStop technology when I wanted to buy a table saw. The inventor WANTS his technology in every saw (I exchanged e-mails with the inventor). He tried to get the major saw companies to license his stuff! The problem is that NO SAW COMPANIES want it for just because of law suits.

    The logic goes like this: Ryobi makes a top-of-the-line saw with SawStop. Some fool cuts his arm off with a low-end model without the technology. Then, they sue Ryobi for not including it in ALL of their products. The companies thought that by not including it at all, they could claim that not having it was OK, because NOBODY had it. This is the "we do what the industry does" defense, which is also the "everybody does it" defense, almost as good as the "wookie" defense).

    SawStop actually makes their OWN saws, but those are in the four-figure range (too much for a homeowner like me who needs to use a table saw every now and then). No doubt if companies like Ryobi, Craftsman, Rigid, et. al. started including this technology as a standard, the price would drop a lot.

    I, for one, am GLAD this this decision was made. This means that hopefully saws with SawStop will actually be available in the few-hundred-dollar price range.

  • by Miseph ( 979059 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @09:00PM (#31546286) Journal

    Uh, no, he shouldn't. Not at all. I'm a liberal, pro-regulation kind of guy, and seriously... just no.

    If anything, the regulation should be that agreeing to an "industry standard" that knowingly stifles adoption of safety features in an (incredibly misguided) attempt to avoid litigation is an antitrust issue. These companies are supposed to be competing, not conspiring to keep optional safety features off the market.

    Sucks for Ryobi that they had to draw the black egg, but this should be a feature that they offer, at added cost to the consumer, on more expensive models.

  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @09:27PM (#31546428)

    The professional customers will be ENRAGED to be charged PROPRIETARY tech because some shithead hurt himself. They want and need STANDARD, simple blades.

    I want simple tools because they are tougher and easier to maintain. Many professional users keep tools and equipment for years, and don't need the inherent "planned obsolesence" that goes with implementing complex features.

    Table saws aren't just toys for hobbyists. They are a vital construction industry tool. I sincerely wish the idiot who started the lawsuit had died (without suing!) instead. The burder of such proprietary tech is, in this case, more costly than a life or several.

  • Re:Saw Stop is great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by microcars ( 708223 ) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @12:00AM (#31547214) Homepage
    A friend of mine has a Scene Shop that owns two Saw Stop machines.
    You can turn OFF the Saw Stop feature if you want.

    After going through about a half dozen blades and brakes they now shut off the Saw Stop feature for:
    Cutting plastics
    Cutting aluminum sheet.

    They don't cut wet wood so it is not really a problem.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"