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Form1 3D Printer and Kickstarter Get Sued For Patent Infringment 211

An anonymous reader writes "3D Systems, one of the big fish in 3D printer manufacturing, filed a suit against Formlabs's hugely popular Form1 printer put forth on Kickstarter. The crowdfunding effort has amassed close to 3M US Dollars, of an initial 100K requested. 3D Systems accuses Formlabs and Kickstarter of knowingly infringing one of its still valid blanket patents on stereolithography and cross-sectional printing of 3D objects. The company is probably going to go for the kill, as one can deduce from the demands on their complaint." In "The State of Community Fabrication" presentation at HOPE9, Far McKon noted that no one had yet filed a patent lawsuit against a 3D printing company, but it looks like his fears have come true.
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Form1 3D Printer and Kickstarter Get Sued For Patent Infringment

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @10:06AM (#42054473)

    The patent in the link has the limitation: "the support structure selectively having different energy levels applied to it at at least the down-facing interfacing region than do the intermediate region and the object to thereby create weak points with less solidification in the solid state transformed liquid medium than the intermediate region and the three-dimensional object at at least the down-facing interfacing regions to facilitate ease of removal of the support structure from a completed three-dimensional object".

    So if Form 1 software is tweaked not to do this, then it would not infringe. At the same time, by the filing of the lawsuit, 3D Systems may have done irreperable harm to Form 1. Counter suit anyone?

  • by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @10:11AM (#42054549) Journal

    I can see them going for the Kickstarter project, but going for Kickstarter itself?

    Yea, great business model. Piss off nerds that use a HUGELY popular web site. [sarcasm]

  • by RabidReindeer ( 2625839 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @10:53AM (#42055011)

    Just curious, are you talking about this quote?:

    "And how are monopolies lost? Think about it. Some very good product people invent some very good products, and the company achieves a monopoly. But after that, the product people aren't the ones that drive the company forward anymore. It's the marketing guys or the ones who expand the business into Latin America or whatever. Because what's the point of focusing on making the product even better when the only company you can take business from is yourself? So a different group of people start to move up. And who usually ends up running the show? The sales guy. John Akers at IBM is the consummate example. Then one day, the monopoly expires for whatever reason. But by then the best product people have left, or they're no longer listened to. And so the company goes through this tumultuous time, and it either survives or it doesn't. Look at Microsoft — who's running Microsoft? (interviewer: Steve Ballmer.) Right, the sales guy. Case closed. And that's what happened at Apple, as well."

    Citation: []

    Short form: "Nothing succeeds like Success". It's why most Free Markets end up destroying themselves. If even one participant can rise above the common herd, positive feedback mechanisms begin to form whereby the winners get bigger at the expense of the losers and the bigger they get, the harder the task of competing with them becomes. Eventually most, if not all competitors become insignificant or extinct and the driving forces for the winners get replaced with forces unrelated to what originally made them winners.

  • by stiggle ( 649614 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @10:57AM (#42055075)

    Their claim is that Kickstarter knowing sold infringing the products to the project backers, and that as a seller they are liable.
    They don't see Kickstarter as an innocent middleman, they see them as an active reseller.

  • by darronb ( 217897 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @02:39PM (#42058239)

    I think STL predates FDM, actually.

    I'm being a bit lazy by not looking this up, but what about FDM using support material? I'd bet that was somewhat later than FDM itself. I'd bet there are a lot of cumulative improvements in FDM that are still covered by patents.

    So, everyone's free to make basic FDM machines as they were described by the earliest patents. There's a lot of ground Stratasys covered since then that is probably being copied and leaving even FDM producers exposed to potential legal problems.

    I'm pretty conflicted on the whole thing. Give the hackers a basic tech like FDM, and they'd make most of the same improvements themselves... but they're going to be hitting ground covered and patented by commercial entities along the way. Many many times, however, someone's going to have looked at a commercial printer for inspiration... and that's essentially an unfair shortcut.

    I think people should be free to produce what they can FOR THEMSELVES without worrying about patent infringements... which would cover most hardware hackers (sort of a fair use concept). However, once you get funding and try to commercialize something, you're subject to normal commercial rules.

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982