The principals of the law firm of Hill, Kertscher, & Wharton, LLP are Steven G. Hill, Douglas R. Kertscher, and Scott A. Wharton. Hill, Kertscher, & Wharton is the law firm of record for lawsuits filed in Virginia and Georgia by Project Paperless, LLC. They have sent letters threatening similar lawsuits to possibly dozens of small businesses in both Virgina and Georgia. Public records seem to indicate that through their participation in several of the LLCs that own Project Paperless LLC, each of these attorneys appears to have some level of ownership stake in Project Paperless, LLC.
Steven G. Hill
Steven Hill is a principal in the firm of Hill, Kertscher & Wharton and Project Paperless LLC’s lead attorney. In addition to representing Project Paperless LLC, public records indicate that Mr. Hill is a member of at least two of the LLCs that have a financial interest in Project Paperless LLC, Bonita Sunrise LLC and PCB Intellectual Properties LLC.
Mr. Hill is a highly experienced trial attorney and a capable lawyer who understands the technicalities of the patent world as well as the federal court system. However, Steve Hill is not infallible. In a 2010 case, Steven G. Hill lost his patent battle in a US District Court of Texas (Highmark Inc. vs. Allcare Health Management Systems) and his client, Allcare was ordered to pay Highmark’s attorneys fees due to “Exceptional Case Findings.” The court wrote, “Responsibility for this failure falls predominately on Hill’s shoulders.” In addition to the attorney’s fees, Hill was sanctioned by the court and received a $25,000 fine. See Opinion and Order Granting Motion for Exceptional-Case Finding and Attorney’s Fees.
The court also noted:
“Patent troll” is a pejorative term used to describe an entity that “enforces patent rights against accused infringers in an attempt to collect licensing fees, but does not manufacture products or supply services based upon the patents in question.” InternetAd Sys., LLC v. Opodo, Ltd., 481 F. Supp. 2d 596, 601 (N.D. Tex. 2007). In this case Allcare’s actions align with the sort of conduct that gives the term “patent troll” its negative connotation. Allcare used a survey with a stated purpose of identifying leaders in the medical information-processing industry as a ruse to identify potential targets for licensing demands, accused Highmark of infringing the ‘105 patent and, ultimately, filed counterclaims for infringement against Highmark having never performed an adequate investigation of such claims, and, along the way engaged in questionable and, at times, deceitful conduct.
In fairness, we also note that Hill did not pay the fine as he appealed it and the judge reconsidered. However ,the appeal was a grudging one. Before vacating the order, the court remanded: “The issue of sanctions against Hill is a close one, as Hill has not addressed all of the circumstances that the Court concluded warrant sanctions in the opinion and Order, and many of the explanations Hill has offered are less than satisfactory.”