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chopmeister

Stratasys sues Afinia for patent infringement

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http://www.3ders.org/articles/20131125-stratasys-brings-patent-infringement-suit-against-afinia.html

Now the interesting thing I found on another site where the reporter says:

"One Stratasys patent is about the rate at which liquid material is sprayed to give the model different degrees of hollowness between its layers. A different patent is a method for keeping freshly sprayed material above the temperature at which it would solidify. Another patent covers the control of the temperature of the material before it is sprayed. Still another is for a method for concealing the seams caused by layering sprayed material."

So I went on to see what patents they are actually talking about. One of them is this:

http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20130095303

That's the "method for concealing the seams caused by layering sprayed material" one. I mean really? They patented all the possible ways two thick curves can meet? If it weren't true it would be really funny.

That led me to discover this one:

http://www.faqs.org/patents/imgfull/20130078073_01

So 6 months ago Stratasys patented an H-bot? How!?!? It was filed in September 2011, but this page, for example, is older than that: http://www.edn.com/design/other/4389023/So-you-want-to-build-an-H-Bot-, and so are others.

All of this is very scary. If they win this one, everybody (except makerbot of course, now we see why they bought them) is in danger.

(All their other patents are here if anybody else is interested:

http://www.faqs.org/patents/assignee/stratasys-inc/)

Oh, I almost forgot, the patented bathing printed objects in acetone too. I'm waiting till they patent "linear bearings, when used within an additive layer manufacturing apparatus". What a load of cr@p.

 

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I posted some questions about this on AskPatents, and I'm waiting for replies from people who know about patent laws more than me. (Which is basically everyone)

I think a prior art claim could be made for the Hbot patent, since there are enough examples of prior art if you google H-bot from mid 2011 backwards. And placing the gantry in a printing CNC machine, instead of a milling CNC machine can hardly be considered novelty. It is nice how the patent itself never refers to the gantry as an H-bot setup thus making a search for prior art very difficult.

As for boycotting everything Stratasys, I agree. Some awareness needs to be raised before they choke the whole 3d printing community with this. As Stratasys itself sells mostly to bigger clients who don't really care about our problem, I think Makerbot is the place to strike. :)

 

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Obviously US patent office did not think it was state of the technology at the moment the patent was submitted.

Some companies may try to ignore it and use the 'state-of-technology' argument if charged by Stratasys. But which ones? Maybe 3D-Systems or some company of similar size. Certainly not Ultimaker...

 

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It is still just a patent application, and not accepted yet. But the problem is that the application is intentionally misleading about the state of prior art, and when you submit a patent, you are required to sign a declaration that you are not aware of any related prior art. Which considering the size and position of Stratasys in the development of 3d printing machines is just a blatant and obvious lie, but one which patent inspectors may not be aware of.

I was advised to file an official complaint to the US Patent Office, which anybody can do, and it is free to include up to three examples of such prior art, but it seems that I am a month too late unfortunately. I am exploring other options though.

 

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Big institutions are attacking, so it needs big institutions to fight back. Have you read this article and know about what the EFF is doing?

Have a look at these links:

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/12/we-need-your-help-join-our-fight-keep-3d-printing-open

http://3dprintingindustry.com/2013/05/17/crowdsourcing-prior-art-to-defeat-3d-printing-patent-applications/?utm_source=3D+Printing+Industry+Update&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=4134896bc9-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_term=0_695d5c73dc-4134896bc9-60484669

http://www.techdirt.com/blog/innovation/articles/20130428/06443622864/dont-let-patents-kill-3d-printing.shtml

They identified those patents which could be the biggest threat, when granted and fight them back with prior art. Harvards Cyberlaw Clinic has already filed 6 prior art claims. But they need ammunition to fight, means articles, blog posts, patents, documents etc. which confirm that it is prior art and a patent therefore cannot be granted.

They even try to patent SUPPORT MATERIAL and EVERY OBJECT THAT IS PRINTED WITH SUCH A METHOD. What a bullshit!!! Hope EFF will put a stop to this.

 

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Somehow the H-bot prior art claim should be brought to the attention of the patent office before this applied for patent is official. I have no idea how this should be done. Perhaps someone with skin in that game should take it up.

 

The EFF has experts for this and they called for community help for eliminating stupid patents.

Julie Samuels at EFF would be the right person to talk to. She is an EFF lawyer specialized on patents and also handles the other claims for prior art regarding 3D printing at EFF.

julie@eff.org

(https://www.eff.org/about/staff/julie-samuels)

Chopmeister, you started this thread, so maybe you should be the one writing the email.

@Dim3nsioneer: As private person you can do whatever you want. There is an exceptance for private use, at least in german law. For business, I don´t know. I am not sure if these patents are valid in every country of Europe only because a company asked for it, or if they have to be confirmed and validated in each country. Also the company has to pay extra for every country the patent should be valid. So we don´t know for which countries they paid...

This whole issue is so stupid. The 3D printing industry sees their market leading position and profits in danger and instead of being more innovative than the rest and building better machines, they try to sue everybody because of idiot patents! Idiots! They should be punished for this! At least I will never ever buy anything from Stratasys or Makerbot...

 

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Somehow the H-bot prior art claim should be brought to the attention of the patent office before this applied for patent is official. I have no idea how this should be done. Perhaps someone with skin in that game should take it up.

 

I'm not sure but it seems that specific the patent application will be rejected anyway. There is a method of submitting prior art claims for published patent applications such as this one, and I registered with the US Patent Office and tried to submit, but I got a reply that this application has a "non-final rejection" already issued. I am currently inquiring about what exactly that is. I'll keep you posted.

And yes, my next step will be contacting the EFF, I am aware of their efforts. :)

I made a little sarcastic manifesto about the whole deal on my blog. It's here. Share it with your 3d printing friends if you like, it would be nice to get a critical mass of users who would boycott MakerBot. :)

 

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I just found this:

http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20130307193

It's about using very small points for the support structure in order to easily break it away after print. Its publication date is less than a week ago. And it's from 3D SYSTEMS. They seem to have similar strategies about patents as Stratasys.

However, in this special case it is obvious that other people had this strategy before. The support in Meshmixer (which is a Autodesk product; also not the smallest company in the World) works quite similar.

So, this is going to be quite interesting. The big companies begin to issue patents which could make not only the life of the open source community quite hard but also the ones of their competitors. I guess we will soon see some kind of patent war between the big ones like those between Google, Apple and Samsung.

 

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I just found this:

http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20130307193

It's about using very small points for the support structure in order to easily break it away after print. Its publication date is less than a week ago.

 

Unfortunately, the filing date is the one that counts here, not the publication date, and that is May 17, 2013.

I checked on the USPTO and this application is still under review so there is still time to send evidence of prior art.

Sending up to three examples per person is free, but they MUST be carefully selected and well described. The goal is not to spam the patent inspector, but to give the best possible examples of prior art. Remember, there are three main ways to disprove a patent like this:

1. prior art (which is the best way)

2. obviousness to those skilled in the art

3. lack of novelty

I will try to spread the word on all of this as best as I can, and coordinate with EFF to post a claim for prior art on AskPatents on both of these patents.

I think lots more of patent applications like these will start to be published soon, this is just the beginning.

I would love to hear thoughts on all of this by someone from Ultimaker, if they are reading this by any chance.

PS. A "non-final rejection" for the H-bot patent means that the application is rejected in it's current form, but the applicant still has an option of changing the claims so that it circumvents the issues stated by the patent inspector. So it's good, but not great.

 

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Thank you very much for your effort Chopmeister!

Well we must keep an eye on that. As you said more of this kind of patent claims will come. The dinosaurs are afraid of their market position and want to keep the newcomers out. They don´t use patents in the way they were originally intended. Rewarding the effort to invest into R&D and motivate the inventors to publish their invention.

I began to read some Stratasys patents and realized that they already patented some ideas I had without knowing their patents... Is there an easy way to stay up to date with new patents in the field of 3D printing, so that we can check if they can be fought?

Ask Patents? Or where to keep up to date? There is also the gazette of the USPTO, published every Tuesday, where you find the newest patents, but it´s way to much work to look through this to find new relevant 3D printing patents...

 

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