A patent troll threatening legal action against small businesses over their use of basic office products like scanners has become the subject of a "groundbreaking" lawsuit of its own. On Wednesday, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell became the first state attorney general to file a suit against a so-called patent troll, alleging MPHJ Technology had "engaged in unfair and deceptive acts" under state law.

MPHJ Technology's tactics were certainly aggressive. As part of a nationwide campaign, the company used various shell companies (more than 40 in total) to send letters to Vermont businesses claiming they were owed thousands of dollars from users that scanned and emailed documents. At least two of its targets were non-profit organizations that assisted disabled Vermont residents, who incurred expenses when they sought legal assistance.

Although the letters warned of legal action, the company is yet to file a single complaint in Vermont or elsewhere in the US. The attorney general is seeking an injunction to stop MPHJ threatening Vermont businesses and fines of up to $10,000 for each violation of the state's Consumer Protection Act.