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Company Sued, Loses For Not Using Patented Tech

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the giving-consumers-the-finger dept.

Patents 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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he should think this through (5, Insightful)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543804)

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.

Re:he should think this through (5, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543862)

Ding! Someone mod this up because this is exactly the issue. The guy bought a cheaper saw and then wanted to cry about the fact that Ryobi cut corners when he did exactly the same thing. I'd give him a sarcastic thumbs up but it might be seen as in bad taste.

Re:he should think this through (5, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543878)

Stumps up, dude!

Re:he should think this through (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543910)

Cool story bro

Re:he should think this through (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544184)

stfu

Too late, for this jury... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543930)

...but I have no doubt this will be appealed.

Re:Too late, for this jury... (2, Funny)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543954)

If it is, this guy is gonna be hacked off, no question.

Re:he should think this through (4, Insightful)

jitendraharlalka (1702444) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544106)

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.

Re:he should think this through (3, Insightful)

Altus (1034) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544192)

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

sounds like a safety law suit jackpot and not a pa (3, Insightful)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543806)

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

Re:sounds like a safety law suit jackpot and not a (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544006)

It is a patent issue because the flesh detection technology is patented and the patent holder wants a very high licensing fee, otherwise saw manufacturers would have adopted the technology years ago.

Several saw manufacturers have been negotiating with the patent holder for years, but the last I time I read about it (3 years ago), the patent holder was asking the equivalent of half of the gross profit on every saw sold. Needless to say that is the equivalent of a lot of law suits.

On the other hand, this definitely qualifies as frivolous law suit. Power saws are dangerous, and if you don't know how to use one safely, you shouldn't be playing with them.

Re:sounds like a safety law suit jackpot and not a (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544194)

The good news is that patents have a short lifespan. The core patent will expire in 2022, at which point the manufacturers will be free to use the patented technology without paying the licensing fees. This also means that the company in question needs to pull its head out of its butt rather quickly and stop being so greedy or else it will find itself getting nothing at all.

Re:sounds like a safety law suit jackpot and not a (0)

pz (113803) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544042)

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

Definitely. I haven't read the Saw Stop patent, but I can think of three completely different ways to implement the same basic idea of stopping the saw blade quickly. None are as good as Saw Stop (which is frelling brilliant and definitely non-obvious), but not implementing what might be considered basic safety technology (like a deadman's switch on a lawnmower, for example) can reasonably drive liability. The unusual part of this case is that we are on the cusp of adoption of this particular -- but important, IMO -- safety technology.

In the article, Saw Stop claims to have sold 20,000 units with their proprietary brake technology, and to have saved 700 fingers. That is an insane injury rate, and if correct, shows how inherently dangerous table saws really are. There's a solution to this safety issue, but Ryobi fully aware of the problem apparently chose not to license said solution. Therefore they are liable. I'm certain there's more to it than that (and, naturally, I'm not a lawyer), but there would seem to be a thread of logical reasoning in the decision.

Re:sounds like a safety law suit jackpot and not a (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544252)

It's highly likely that the 20,000 users most likely to be injured would be the first buyers especially given the price. Also, having something that makes the blade injury proof, is exceedingly likely to cause users to take risks that they probably wouldn't consider if they had a regular table saw.

Re:sounds like a safety law suit jackpot and not a (5, Insightful)

lupis42 (1048492) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:sounds like a safety law suit jackpot and not a (4, Funny)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544300)

Saw Stop claims to have sold 20,000 units with their proprietary brake technology, and to have saved 700 fingers. That is an insane injury rate, and if correct, shows how inherently dangerous table saws really are.

Yeah, but 680 of those fingers were probably pinkies... which are like the lizard's tail of the human body.

Don't Expect Anything to Change (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543824)

The Democrats in general and the Obama Administration in specific are deep in the pockets of the liability lawyer lobby. They would never change the law to make more since if it was going to cost them money. Why do you think real malpractice reform was completely excluded from the Obamacare bill Pelosi is frantically trying to bribe its way to passage even as I write?

Re:Don't Expect Anything to Change (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544130)

Why do you think real malpractice reform was completely excluded from the Obamacare bill Pelosi is frantically trying to bribe its way to passage even as I write?

Because it would only save a few billion dollars, and when someone is working with a multi-trillion dollar issue, it doesn't really matter? It would be similar to you spending one thousand dollars on paying for things to live, but worrying about the 5 or 10 dollars in sales tax. It isn't the big issue. Considering that the more important issue was simply getting a health care bill passed, muddying up the waters with malpractice reform would harm the goal of getting every American insured.

Horrible summary (2, Insightful)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543830)

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.

Re:Horrible summary (5, Insightful)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Horrible summary (3, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544018)

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.

Re:Horrible post (4, Insightful)

bwcbwc (601780) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Horrible summary (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544190)

> This is setting precedent that if a company doesn't implement a patented technology, they are liable.

No. He could have taken some other action and had it prevented injury then he wouldn't have been dragged in front of a court and asked why he was using a non-patented safety mechanism. Using your argument, as soon as this patent expires you're saying that the company would then have to start looking for another patented mechanism. It's a nonsense argument.

Re:Horrible summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543970)

What the hell?! Where did anyone start talking about software? The technology that Ryobi didn't license from the patent holder is a physical device.

Re:Horrible summary (1)

black3d (1648913) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544014)

Only on Slashdot could a post suggesting to use "free open source software" on a sawing table be marked "insightful".

Hopefully OP was joking.. but then.. people are replying to it seriously. :\

Re:Horrible summary (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544136)

The fact that the currently accepted solution is patented is irrelevant, a FOSS alternative would be just as good.

No it wouldn't. It's about power tools, which are hardware. Software, open source or otherwise, won't help you here.

Re:Horrible summary (1)

Golddess (1361003) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544312)

FOSH then :P

Re:Horrible summary (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544234)

How the hell would a FOSS apply to this?

SawStop is a electro-mechanical device, and a brilliant fix too, this is an example of a patent that works and an inventor that should be able to make some money off the design for a period of time.

Re:Horrible summary (1)

jemenake (595948) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544268)

I'm conflicted about this. As a woodworker, I've known about the SawStop for about 5 years and have been following its development and deployment into the marketplace. From a woodworker's perspective, this device is revolutionary... at total game-changer in the area of safety, so I could see why some people would consider this to be either mandatory equipment or that it would be negligence on the part of the manufacturer if they left this component off.

However, like the summary said, it's chilling that a patented piece of tech would be made de-facto mandatory due to the fact that, if you leave it off of your product, you get sued. I guess it depends upon how much the patent-holder was asking for their license. All I ever heard was that talks had fallen through with all of the manufacturers, so SawStop had to start making their own saws. If SawStop was asking for some huge license fee, then... yeah... they're being unreasonable. However, if SawStop was asking for some reasonable amount (and I'd consider anything under $50 per saw to be "reasonable"), then I'd surely consider casting my vote for the plaintiff if I were on the jury.

Re:Horrible summary (1)

JohnnyBGod (1088549) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544322)

I know the story is in "Your Rights Online" (the most horribly stretched category on /., btw), but nowhere do the title or the summary mention software.

If you do a Bobbit Job on yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543836)

You have only yourself to blame !!

Oh the irony. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543840)

The ultimate irony...
Many companies did not embrace this tech. and put it on their saws for the sole reason they were afraid they'd be sued just in case the saw didn't stop fast enough.

Not "the government" (1, Insightful)

mi (197448) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543842)

"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?

Re:Not "the government" (2, Insightful)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Not "the government" (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.)

Re:Not "the government" (5, Interesting)

mi (197448) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544270)

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...

Re:Not "the government" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544318)

There is no law that requires the guy in the condo above you to avoid overfilling his tub.

But if he forgets and leaves the water on, and it seeps through the floor and ruins your condo, you will sue him. He neglected to use due care, and his negligence resulted in damage to your property. Civil lawsuits are about redress.

This company failed to deploy modern safety equipment, and were sued civilly for that design shortcoming. No different that if the saws were of shoddy construction and occasionally threw a blade and injured the user. The designs of the saws were substandard in the eyes of their peers -- the jury.

Re:Not "the government" (2, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Cut off his thumb? (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543852)

These are one of the most dangerous tools you can use. Not because they're particularly dangerous themselves, but because people like to cut their thumbs off when they use them.

A chainmail glove reduces the chance of this.

Re:Cut off his thumb? (3, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543934)

Ah, power tools. Cheap, don't require a license or even a class to buy or operate, and potentially deadly to the untrained. One of the last bastions holding out against the evil nanny state. Of course, this particular bastion is guarded by a cadre of thumbless idiots, but that just makes it all the funnier for the rest of us.

Re:Cut off his thumb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543998)

Of course, this particular bastion is guarded by a cadre of thumbless idiots, but that just makes it all the funnier for the rest of us.

The best part is trying to watch them all hitchhike to Capitol Hill.

Re:Cut off his thumb? (1)

swb (14022) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543992)

But how much? I have a pretty inexpensive table saw with "only" a 1.5 HP motor, yet I don't see chain mail (at least any kind that would still make handling wood at the saw comfortable/safe) gloves as being able to realistically stop the blade at speed.

For guys using bigger saws with, say, 3 HP motors, it seems like there'd be no use in wearing them.

Re:Cut off his thumb? (5, Informative)

Posting=!Working (197779) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544114)

As the tip of the blade hooks into the loop of the chain mail glove and tries to pull it, and your hand inside it, through the slot in the table and being partially successful, you'll wish you'd just cut your finger off.

Some tools are much safer without gloves. Drill Presses and vertical band saws are in this category.

Re:Cut off his thumb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544158)

You do not wear gloves when working with power saws, because the glove is more likely to drag you through the saw than the act of losing a bit of flesh.

Want to be safe? Keep your damn digits out of the saw line and practice decent workspace hygiene.

Re:Cut off his thumb? (5, Informative)

guyfawkes-11-5 (1583613) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544168)

These are one of the most dangerous tools you can use. Not because they're particularly dangerous themselves, but because people like to cut their thumbs off when they use them.

A chainmail glove reduces the chance of this.

I cant say that I have ever seen anyone use a chainmail glove with a tablesaw, hobbyist or professional. A average table saw would be able to cut right through chainmail. Ef. There are special blades you can use when cutting lumber with nails in it. It doesn't even flinch when cutting an 8d nail. So its back to basics:
Pushsticks to keep your fingers away, featherboards to reduce kickback,common sense and RESPECT for the machine!

If it isn't required by law, it isn't required (2, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543858)

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."

COMEDY GOLD!

Re:If it isn't required by law, it isn't required (5, Informative)

The Angry Mick (632931) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543990)

Did anyone ever sue an auto manufacturer who did not include airbags? I don't think so.

Actually, yes [thefreelibrary.com] .

Re:If it isn't required by law, it isn't required (0, Troll)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544010)

I have no doubts this will be overturned on appeal.

Not just because Ryobi has lots of money to toss at this, but because all of their competitors are going to be afraid of similar lawsuits.

Re:If it isn't required by law, it isn't required (2, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:If it isn't required by law, it isn't required (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544134)

Interesting. Has there ever been a case requiring the use of new, patented technology before? I mean, if a product was considered safe enough before the technology came out, how could it be considered unsafe afterwords?

Airbag lawsuits? Read the article... (1)

TimTucker (982832) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544068)

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.

Taken from the original article:

Carpinello likens flesh-detection technology to airbags, which fueled a similar slew of litigation when they were first installed in cars. Automakers without airbags got sued for not adopting the better safety design. Now, all cars have airbags.

Re:Airbag lawsuits? Read the article... (0, Troll)

WinterSolstice (223271) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544326)

Exactly.

Once again, people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own free-market actions.
The reason we have the government we deserve is because we're unwilling to take responsibility for our own actions.

If this had been a case where he was injured because the saw turned itself on due to a bad switch, or some other example of extremely bad design it would be different. This is a case where he bought a cheap saw KNOWING it was a cheap saw.

But wait! (5, Funny)

lottameez (816335) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543860)

Requiring manufacturers to use this patented safety device would be denying me my right to cut off my fingers. Stay out of my self-mutilation, government!

Re:But wait! (4, Insightful)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:But wait! (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544324)

Saw Stop has its limitations. It basically works the same way a touch lamp or GFCI works. You create a ground, ground is sensed, action is done. In this instance the action is shoving a block of aluminum into the saw blade.

You can't cut wood over a certain % water because the wood will act as a ground, creating a false positive and you get to spend $70 on a sacrificial piece of aluminum and new blade.

So there are good reasons for NOT having this 'safety feature'.

All the defense lawyer has to do is prove is that this guy at any time in his life has cut wood with a high % of water, something he could not have done on the Saw Stop.
(Right? Just like Law and Order?)

Not new (1)

twotailakitsune (1229480) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543874)

The government has in the past forced the use of patented tech. It is not new, it is just a rare case that was not done out of court.

We've seen this before, move along.. (1)

katz (36161) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543884)

How is this any different from Congress requiring car manufacturers to incorporate electronic stability control in their new cars?

Re:We've seen this before, move along.. (1)

Meshach (578918) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544024)

From TFA this is exactly what happened with airbags in cars. Airbags were introduced and patented. At first they were just in some cars. Then manufactures that did not have air bags got sued because their product was not as safe as it could be. So they licensed the idea from the patent holder and put it in their cars. Now everyone is safer and the guy who invented a way to save lots of lives got rich.

What is the problem?

Because the goverment doesn't mandate it (2, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544086)

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.

Not again... (5, Informative)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543890)

Slashdot and the Law: Unsafe at any speed.

It's been years since I was in Torts class, but this is a product liability suit... NOT a patent suit. The only reason the "patent" is being bandied about is because this guy's argument boils down to this: Riyobi knew (or should have known) that there was a safer way to make the saw. Riyobi presumably did not choose the safer way. Therefore, Riyobi should be liable for my injury.

Note that this argument by itself is nowhere near sufficient to win a product liability lawsuit. For example, it's easy to say that you could make any car safer by preventing it from going over 5mph, but just throwing that fact out in court by itself will never win a product liability case. Usually there are lots of extra factors like industry standards and cost-benefit analyzes that are argued over by lots of expert witnesses. Could Riyobi have "reasonably" adopted the improved design? etc. etc.

The ONLY reason that a patent has anything important to do with this case is that patents are, by definition, publicly available and it makes an easy argument to show that Riyobi knew or could have known about what was disclosed in the patent. Also, there is NO REQUIREMENT that Riyobi would HAVE to use the safety system described in the patent. Instead, the safety system is just an example of what is known, and Riyobi could argue that its own systems were just as good or even better. The patent was likely just one data point of MANY data points used to establish what a "reasonable" safety system would look like. One interesting point would be to see if Riyobi itself is the assignee of the patent....

In a nutshell: Don't read too much into this case. Like most legal cases discussed on Slashdot, somebody saw a buzzword like "patent" and wanted to score points with the mouthbreathing site admins.

Re:Not again... (5, Funny)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543936)

Oh.. and "buzzword" was not an intentional pun there.....

Re:Not again... (2, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544208)

Oh.. and "buzzword" was not an intentional pun there.....

I bet you wish we could edit posts so you could go back and cut off that part of your comment.

Re:Not again... (1)

uncanny (954868) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544284)

well it would be safer if they made the blade out of cloth and didn't include a power switch, or cord for that matter (trip hazard). If you dont understand how dangerous a [insert powertool, gun, etc] is, then you really shouldn't have been using it int he first place.

Not a "government" requirement (4, Insightful)

Tiger4 (840741) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Not a "government" requirement (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544058)

These kinds of decisions do tend to have that effect, though. Any future table-saw company who does not include the technology will be in an even worse position than Ryobi, because not only did they fail to include available safety technology, but they willfully failed to do so even after another company was held liable for injuries resulting from the same omission.

Re:Not a "government" requirement (2, Interesting)

Tiger4 (840741) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Not a "government" requirement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544108)

> found that the plaintiff had a good argument

It seems to me that the jury don't care about the argument, they think 'how much money would _I_ want if my hand was cut off'.

> doesn't men they must license it at whatever price the patent holder demands

The patent holder has no obligation to offer licences and may prevent it being used unlicenced.

Mandatory safety enhancements (1)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543902)

I wonder, at what point does a feature that saves lives, limbs, or fingers go from "nice to have" to mandatory? Seat belts, for example -- once they were an option, now you have to have them and *use* them.

I often hear the ads for GM's OnStar, where someone is in a crash and the OnStar response saves their life or that of someone in the other car. They tout some large number of OnStar crash activations as a reason to buy a GM car. But if it's such a critical safety feature -- if nobody in their right mind would consider buying a vehicle *without* OnStar -- then shouldn't it be mandatory on *all* vehicles?

Where *do* we draw a line between "buy this to save your life, if you want to" and "buy this to save your life, you're required to"? I'm sure there's strong arguments on both sides... the issue of licensing patented maim-prevention systems is just part of the debate.

Re:Mandatory safety enhancements (1)

Higaran (835598) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543984)

Easy as soon as some one like this sues because this wasn't inclued in what ever they bought. Your right I'm sure soon enough ONSTAR will be free on all cars, because it'll be manditory on all new cars.

Re:Mandatory safety enhancements (1)

John Napkintosh (140126) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544082)

"Those fat-cat automobile CEOs KNEW that a [lane departure|radar-equipped automatic braking|drowsiness detection] system would have prevented my serious injury, but they didn't put one in my car. I think I might have a case!"

Turn it around: was he using all poss. safety? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543904)

Was the guy using all possible safety devices available, including those that cost a lot? If not, then by his logic he's responsible (which can't be, because he's clearly irresponsible). Or, did he verify that the saw used all possible safety mechanisms before he used it? Hell, what if I patent the "has no power cord or battery" safety mechanism; does that mean anyone can sue a power too manufacturer for not incorporating my 100% safe device?

Liability Rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544308)

I didn't RTFM, but your question about whether he used safety measures himself has varying degrees of relevance depending on what state he lives in.

Some jurisdictions will completely bar him from recovery if he is found to be negligent himself, pretty much AT ALL.
Other jurisdictions will allow him to recover only if he was how negligent he himself was (although, typically the party he is suing has to be more negligent), but will reduce recovery by the percentage he was at fault.
E.g., the jury finds man 25% liable, company 75% liable, and awards $100,000. The plaintiff gets to walk away with $75,000 ($100k - 25%)

Then there are crazy rules, like some states that allow a plaintiff to recover 100% of the damages from any of a group of negligent parties, regardless of how negligent they were found to be.
E.g., Manny sues Bob, Phil, and Company Q for negligence and wins $1,000,000. The jury finds that the man's injury was 0% his own fault, 50% Bob's fault,49% Phil's fault, and 1% Company Q's fault.
Who do you think has $1,00,000 lying around? Manny can recover all $1,000,000 from Company Q, even though their "share" of the damages is only $10,000. It is then up to Company Q to sue Bob and Phil to try to get the money back. Betcha' Bob & Phil are broke.

This is why you see lots of big corporations get named in tort suits and why lots of big companies settle (in exchange for indemnification) before a suit goes to trial, even if it seems like the case has no merit at all. Why risk that chance that you are found to be the tiniest bit liable? Juries feel sorry for injured people and know big companies have deep pockets.

the "lawsuit awards" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543918)

there used to be a link on the darwin awards website to another site, honoring this kind of law suits.

there was one particular award given to a family who lost their child due to a lawnmower accident at school(?).
the family first sued the school. after realisin that a school can't be cash-milked, they sued the lawnmower company.
the suit was won, because the company had not in cluded some safety feature in that particular model, even though the feature was introduced _after_ the model was built!!!

can someone find the site? (iirc the award is named after the woman who sued McDonalds because the coffee was too hot)

Stella Awards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544090)

It's the Stella Awards

http://www.stellaawards.com/

Company sued for not using standard safety devices (1, Insightful)

VinylRecords (1292374) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

http://www.patents.com/Airbag/US6866291/en-US/ [patents.com]

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.

Re:Company sued for not using standard safety devi (4, Informative)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544016)

I haven't bought a saw recently, but I don't think Saw-Stop is standard. (In fact, the point of the linked article seems to be that it is not, but the creator thinks it should be.)

If you bought a car without an airbag installed and they told you that that model didn't have an airbag, unless it's against the law not to have one, you're SOL. If you bought it and, as you said, they had simply failed to install it, then you you have a case because now we're talking about something that they claimed to have and didn't.

Re:Company sued for not using standard safety devi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544070)

RTFA. This is not a "standard" safety device.

Re:Company sued for not using standard safety devi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544100)

This is bullshit, SawStop is not a "standard safety device." 99% of the table saws on the market do not have an equivalent safety mechanism.

Re:Company sued for not using standard safety devi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544172)

Bad example - airbags are required by law on all new cars (every new car after april 1 1989 has to have either airbags or automatic seat belts.)

I am unaware of any legal requirements for table saws.

Re:Company sued for not using standard safety devi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544302)

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.

Right. If a manufacturer screwed up its assembly line to the point where somehow a car was made without airbags then they'd be liable as hell. If a consumer bought a cheap car that didn't have air bags--back when before airbags were universal and specifically required by motor vehicle safety standards, but cars with airbags were available (for more $)--he should rightly be laughed at for trying to sue the company that made the cheaper car, because he chose the cheaper car. That's basically what this lawsuit was: Sawstop is expensive and new (and still covered by patents) and it's not a 'universal' safety feature by any means. There are no legal safety standards (or even industry-produced ones afaik) that require or even recommend Sawstop technology for all table saws, and yet the jury somehow mistakenly decided that it should be universal. I probably wouldn't pay much extra for Sawstop; using a table saw is always dangerous, and the slight reduction in danger doesn't justify the substantial price increase. But I definitely don't think it should effectively be legally required on all table saws sold in the U.S.

Saw Stop is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543926)

"In documents submitted to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Power Tool Institute has claimed that replacing the cost of SawStop's brake, $69, and blade, about $100, after an incident would burden consumers."

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

Saw Stop is one of the best things to ever happen to power tools. It is the airbags and seatbelts equivalent for power tools. Actually, it is even better than airbags, as it avoids an accident altogether. I hope their approach spreads to all other power tools. I am a woodworker, and am terrified by the fact that in a fraction of a second I can screw up and change my entire life.

Re:Saw Stop is great (3, Interesting)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544034)

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.

Re:Saw Stop is great (2, Informative)

Dr. Evil (3501) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544188)

Nooo, it's $169 to replace the blade and brake every time it triggers.

"...Stearns applied for grants to pay for two SawStop saws in 2008, which cost $7,400, about three times the price of other brands. "

sue everyone (4, Insightful)

NeoXon (1718618) | more than 4 years ago | (#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!

Not entirely sure about the IP IS DEH EVILS Tone (1)

gront (594175) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543950)

Is the argument:

1. You shouldn't have to license a patent even if it lowers chance of an injury by 50%

2. If you have to license a patent to add the injury prevention widget, such a license should be compulsory.

3. You shouldn't be able to patent things that prevent injury

Seriously, folks, we live in an IP based world, and if someone makes an invention that makes a product significantly more safe, and the manufacturer knows about the patent, knows that their product is unsafe without the patent, and decides to sell the product anyway, why is it OMFG!ZMOG!EVILSBROKENJURYOUTOFCONTROL that the company is found liable for an injury?

From the article link:

According to the Journal of Trauma, an estimated 565,670 table-saw-related injuries were treated from 1990 to 2007 in U.S. emergency rooms. The vast majority involved a hand coming in contact with the blade, and about 10 percent ended in amputation.

Thats a lot of sawed hands.

define 50%? (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544174)

define injury?

it's really easy to say "lowers a chance of injury by 50%" but that is MEANINGLESS

if you go to saw stops website (I suggest it strongly the videos are cool)

you'll see even when it works it takes out a sliver of skin--
it requires a little moisture (skin breaking) to work..
(It does greatly reduce the amount of damage inflicted)

so technically it doesn't lower the chance of injury at all a lawyer would see that
"law says 50% reduced chance of injury- same chance here- MAJOR FREAKING LOOPHOLE"
in your 'so simple' off the cuff solution.

Re:Not entirely sure about the IP IS DEH EVILS Ton (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544314)

One detail: a saw table with this feature will cost about 70% more to manufacture than one without.
A saw table is an extremely simple tool. A saw, a table, a motor, two bearings, one belt, one switch. I've seen countless ones home-made. This system at least doubles the complexity.

What if I prefer to save the money? If I want to choose a table without this simply because it will be vastly cheaper?

Or if I know I will be using it only with conductive materials, and so the feature is useless for me?

Next, following http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/01/30/0137220/Gun-With-Wireless-Arming-Signal-Goes-On-Sale-Soon?art_pos=1 [slashdot.org] entering PIN code will become mandatory to shoot any gun.

Idiots (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544004)

Wow... Humanity never ceases to amaze me. They lost because the guy is a moron? It's a freaking-power tool. If you don't know how to use it safely you have no business being around one.

I hope the company appeals and wins that time. I don't want my product's prices going up because people are too stupid to use them properly.

Seen on a hairdryer *Do not use while sleeping or in the bathtub* .
*Contents might be hot* on coffee cups. Because of such morons.

While we're at it, why not put a warning on every ice cream tub ,Slushie and popsicle?

*Warning might cause brain freeze if eaten too fast*

Or *Eating junk food will make you fat* on McDonald's menus.

The plan (1)

ajlitt (19055) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544012)

1) Buy sharp scissors
2) Run with scissors
3) Sue manufacturer on the grounds that they weren't safety scissors
4) Profit!

law demands patented technology all the time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544022)

If you are sick and there is medical consensus that Blobbitol (a patented drug) can cure you, and your doctor gives you some other treatment and you die, he is probably liable for malpractice, wrongful death, etc.

Hmmm (1)

Dr. Evil (3501) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544056)

"It seemed, for this industry, a fundamental discovery," Fanning said. "I'd never seen anything like it."

The demo is pretty impressive: http://www.sawstop.com/howitworks/videos.php [sawstop.com]

Seems to test conductivity, probably between the table and the blade

7. Can I cut conductive materials?

"Yes. You can operate the saw in Bypass Mode which deactivates the safety system's braking feature, allowing you to cut aluminum and other known conductive materials. If you are unsure if the material you need to cut is conductive, you can make test cuts using Bypass Mode to determine if it will activate the safety system's brake. "

The mechanics are pretty cool. It seems to use the momentum of the blade itself to stop the cut. The electrics are trivial, combining the electrics and the mechanics to create a safety feature isn't something I would have thought of... it'd destroy my saw :-)

Re:Hmmm (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544210)

I must say, I never knew about this feature, so I'm really glad for this article (and, specifically, your links). Watching the videos on their site are both Really Awesome, and extra scary when you think about the "not 'if', but 'when'" part of power tool accidents.

I know I won't be buying a table saw without this.

Our legal system sucks (1)

brennz (715237) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544084)

Lawyers are the scourge of the earth, and will not be finished mining the product liability goldmine until everything in existence has giant safety warnings on it, and commonsense is abandoned.

This will be overturned (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544128)

Tools are dangerous, and if you buy a tool the risks are explained in the manual. You want 'safe' tools, shop around and pay more. OR choose average tools and keep your fingers out of the way like the rest of us do. ( this assumes no fundamental defects of course )

This will get over turned on appeals.

A different angle on this story... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544166)

I didn't read this story properly the first time, which is why I ended up interpreting the story different (might be because the title was a little vague).

What happens if a company has a patent on a safety feature but then chooses NOT to implement it. Example: If a company has a cure for cancer but chooses not to produce it, and its patents prevent other companies from producing it, are they liable?

Why not a IQ test? (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544216)

When I took wood shop in school, our table saw had a guard over the blade, and we were taught to use push sticks so that our fingers did not get near the blade. I see people all the time doing dumb stunts with power tools. RTFM, dude, that's why Ryobi put one in with the saw.

I have a feeling the reason why Ryobi didn't put the flesh detector stuff on their saw is because the flesh has to come in contact with the saw to activate it. They probably figured they would get hit harder if they had new safety tech on their saw and it failed one time, because, hey, it was claimed the saw would stop if touched by flesh.

Reality check! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544220)

From the article...

But saw manufacturers have countered that SawStop's technology is "unproven" and "speculative." They've accused SawStop of pushing its technology for its own financial gain.

What!?

That's exactly what a company does! It's a company, not a charity!

Geez! (1)

OhHellWithIt (756826) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544248)

It's a power saw, for crying out loud! It's supposed to be able to do that! (Or how else will I get rid of the bodies?)

Financially viable? (5, Informative)

Radical Moderate (563286) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544272)

From TFA: "Osorio's legal team, ... pointed to SawStop's sales as evidence that the technology is not only mechanically feasible but financially viable"

SawStop's cheapest saw is $1600. To get the saw working again after a stoppage costs $169 in parts. That alone is more than I paid for my table saw, brand new. These a**holes are basically trying to destroy woodworking as a hobby. Yes, saws are dangerous, that's why I'm always incredibly careful when I use one.

This tech is great for schools or shops where saws are used all the time, but to insist that no saw be sold without this technology is nuts.

Safety begins between the ears (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544294)

I spend most of my weekends during the fairer months outside climbing. You would not believe the stupid shit you see people doing with belay devices that attempt to make climbing safer by nature (Petzl GriGri, Trango Cinch, etc). Last year I saw a guy belaying with a GriGri while laying in a hammock. I don't think anybody using a tubular device (ATC, etc) would even consider this. Attempting to make the system safer breeds complacency in some people.

I also heard about a bad ground fall that happened because somebody belaying with a GriGri grabbed the climber's end of the rope during a fall, preventing the GriGri from locking and arresting the fall. In this case, attempting to make the system safer led to misuse, probably because of a fundamental lack of understanding of how it worked in the first place.

Another neat potential failure mode of auto-locking belay devices occurs when the belayer gets pulled up into the lowest point of protection (because of a long lead fall, which is not an inherently unsafe thing, nor is it uncommon. I've fallen 25' (4.5 m) and that's a pretty short lead fall). Some devices can be forced into an unlocked state if they jam up against a bolt hanger or. If the belayer isn't paying attention and doesn't have a hand on the brake end of the rope, the climber falls. I won't even try to count the number of times I've seen people using an auto-locking device without their hand on the brake end of the rope.

I honestly believe that adding safety features *CAN* make dangerous activities safer, but if and only if people treat the added safety feature as a backup to their own training and understanding of the activity in the first place. I trust these devices in the hands of the people I climb with because I trust the people I climb with to act safely without the added safety features. The takeaway lesson is that people need to be safe, not devices.

Also, I don't mean to pick on the GriGri, it's just the oldest and most common of the auto-locking belay devices on the market.

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