Patent trolls that make money by aggressively filing intellectual property lawsuits are nothing new, but Ars Technica has chronicled a particularly ugly iteration: companies that try to shake down small businesses for using basic technologies like scanners. Project Paperless and a number of shell companies affiliated with it have claimed that they're owed thousands of dollars from end users who "hook up a scanner and email a PDF document," attempting to spook them into settlements.

While Project Paperless has backed down from pitched legal battles, it's difficult to fight trolls who go after a large number of users rather than the companies who make the allegedly infringing devices — a move that's quite deliberate. "If they extract a small amount from each possible end user," says one litigator, "the total amount might well end up being a much larger sum than they could ever get from the manufacturers."