Jon Chesto in the Patriot Ledger writes:  What does a big company like Dunkin’ Brands do if its lawyers believe it is being extorted? It sends its lawyers out to federal court to deal with the matter.

The Canton-based parent company of the Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins chains sued VBConversions LLC, a California software firm, this week. Dunkin’ contends that it’s being coerced into paying an outrageous sum of cash for a supposed copyright violation.

In January, Dunkin’ received a letter from VBConversions that threatened a copyright lawsuit against Dunkin’ because it found that a user named “Dan,” working at a computer linked to Dunkin’ Brands, gained unauthorized access to a copy of VBConversions’ software in 2009. “Dan” apparently used that software to convert about 125,000 lines of coding. The letter urged Dunkin’ to pay up, to the sum of $130,000 – or else.

Dunkin’ claims that “Dan” actually worked for an independent contractor in Ontario, and was not an employee of Dunkin’ Brands or any of its affiliates. Besides, Dunkin’ says, it’s kind of ridiculous to insist that the company pay $130,000 for the use of software that has a retail price of $199.

As recently as last month, VBConversions was still insisting that Dunkin’ owed the software firm $130,000. Finally, Dunkin’ lawyers figured it made sense to go to Boston federal court to persuade a judge to decree that Dunkin’ hasn’t infringed any valid copyrights.

The kicker in the Dunkin’ Brands lawsuit: The fast food company claims it’s not the only one that’s getting coerced. Dunkin’ claims that VBConversions has engaged in a pattern, dating back to at least 2006, of demanding outrageous sums of money from people who have used its software without a proper license. In particular, Dunkin’ Brands says VBConversions has initiated at least 21 lawsuits since 2006 with similar demands.

Read more: Dunkin’ Brands claims it is being coerced by a California software firm to cough up $130K | Mass. Market http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/massmarkets/2011/06/08/dunkin-brands-claims-it-is-being-coerced-by-a-california-software-firm-to-cough-up-130k/#ixzz1P7Lk1vYB