This is the strange but, by this stage, depressingly familiar story of small businesses being shaken down by patent trolls. In this case, the trolls are called "Project Paperless" - except perhaps not any more, as they've now apparently exploded into a constellation of hard-to-track nonsense-named shell companies.
Whoever they are, they as usual claim to hold patents on common things that a blind and severely developmentally delayed toddler could see were in common use long before the patents were awarded.
One of their targets who stood up to them is quoted, in that Ars Technica story, as saying the four patents held by Project Paperless are "...a lot of what I'd call gobbledygook ... Just jargon and terms strung together - it's really literally nonsensical."
Well, that sounded like fun, so I checked out the four linked patents. All of them were originally assigned to one "Laurence C. Klein", who at some point presumably transferred ownership of the patents to whoever Project Paperless are, if he and they are not the same person.
In this one, Mr Klein is in 2001 granted a patent on programs that can view images of documents.
In this one, Mr Klein is in 2004 granted a patent on the basic functions of document scanners, to which he gives the name "Virtual Copier".
In this one, Mr Klein is in 2009 granted a patent on sending documents from one computer to another.
And in this one, Mr Klein is in 2011 granted another patent on the same stuff he patented in 2004, but this time without calling it "Virtual Copier".
I have not ploughed through the legalese in great detail, lest I slide into severely refractory depression. But I do not think I am exaggerating this. These software patents really are this stupid.
Not only are these patents all almost completely obvious, but they are all for processes that were invented not long after, and in some cases significantly before, the invention of the cathode-ray-tube monitor. Documents were being scanned and stored in computer memory, for instance, in nineteen fifty-seven.
The only thing that really surprises me about patent trolls is that, in yet another testament to the essential decency of the human race, not one of them has yet been found strung up with their own guts.