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back to article Übertroll firm bags DRM patent for 3D printing

A division of Intellectual Ventures, the IP-holding company founded by Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft's former CTO, has been granted a patent on a system for introducing digital rights management (DRM) controls to 3D printing. Under the system described in the patent, files containing plans for printed objects would be encased in a …

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Jeez... Honestly....

The US IP system is totally screwed. Unless El Reg have glossed over some important detail and successfully trolled me, there is *nothing* new or innovative about this.

It is simply a file being encrypted and then decrypted/verified by software on a bit of hardware.

Just like Bluray players, the original iPod lock in, etc etc etc...

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Re: Jeez... Honestly....

But it's on a different device. Apparently that's enough nowadays, because there's no way that could stifle innovation!

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WTF?

Re: Jeez... Honestly....

You are correct there is nothing new here, but SHUT UP. As long as DRM is patented, it can be stupid-expensive to use in a 3D printer. Hell, I want to nominate these guys for some kinda award for making efforts to prevent the inclusion of DRM in 3D printers!

Why are people upset about this?

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On the otherhand this could be a good thing

If makers were forced to licence this patent in order to add DRM then

1, they are unlikely to automatically add DRM

2, it's very hard for governments to mandate or industry to lobby for DRM if they means you have to license this patent

Imagine if somebody had patented region coding on DVDs (well they did but they were part of the DVD consortium)

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Re: On the otherhand this could be a good thing

What you want to look at is Macrovision.

Free for the consumer (when they buy a DVD Player or VHS deck.

Free for the people making DVD players or VHS decks, but you MUST include it!

Create a DVD and use CSC you also get Macrovision, and you pay for it.

They could require all printers to have DRM no charge.

All files must have DRM.

You have to submit your file for approval and DRM, you pay. People print your file, you pay again.

So there will be no Free files to compete with people selling stuff.

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Stop

Re: On the otherhand this could be a good thing

That was back then. This is now.

DVD is a product of the 70s/80s mindset - centrally controlled, with "content producers" on one hand, and "consumers" on the hand. The "content producers" would impose their idea of what's permissible on the reader device maufacturers, and that would be that - a closed system to pump movies to the consumers under tight supervisions. So tight in fact that they went so far as to have "region codes". Yes, the world would be balkanized with content staying in each cell. How MBA-carrying retarded can you be? Of course, politicians and lawmakers enable this kind of bilking (then call it a "free market with consistent IP protection") and one should apply the Mongols' idea of using of a large plank and several horses for good effect on these people, but I digress...

What I am saying is, 3D printing is nothing special. No special "disk format" for interoperability, no special file format, no special filesystem. In 2012, people know how to create open, interoperable descriptions (if need by in XML) that can be exchanged on USB sticks or downloaded/uploaded. The situation is totally different. Competing devices will be made interoperable by software conversion. Those that don't want to play ball and DRM everything will either die of find a niche among buyers that have more money than good sense.

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h3
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I am interested in 3d printing.

Kind of sad though that the last generation who actually knew how to design and build (and fix) stuff from scratch was my grandfathers generation. (At least in my life and the area around where I live the only people making stuff from scratch are all retired (And they can fix even stuff that is supposed to be unfixable). (Younger people don't seem to have the whole picture just know how to do a small part of the job if any engineering experience at all)).

Everyone from my parents generation and newer seems to just by cheap junk. (Even more so Generation X (mine) and my brothers (Generation Y).

For something complicated it would be useful to not start again (When using expensive materials) and just get something working. (Without having to use expensive tooling that has DRM and is obviously what will be taught in Universities),

I hope I am wrong. (Maybe other cultures are better than the UK/US ones (Germans / Chinese / Russians maybe..)

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Happy

Fixing stuff

You are very wrong. I fix stuff that others say is unfixable and actually make it better than it was originally (e.g. use screws instead of glue in places where screws should've been used in the first place, replace electronic components with higher rated/higher quality ones, use bigger heatsinks, replace plastic supports with metal). I've built and still build stuff from scratch. I'm only 27.

I know more about electronics than my dad does (he's told me) or granddad did.

My dad has more experience with wood though. No screw driver/fixing stuff icon so just used :) instead.

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Meh

I'd suggest it had more to do with how you have been brought up than anything else.

I'll fix it, unless the cost of fixing outweighs the cost of replacing, doing anything else is a little silly. However, i've fixed everything from malfunctioning shower mixer taps (~20 years old) to faulty soldered devices. My dad instilled in me the belief that it's fine to pay for something that you need and to pay for somebody else to do a job, but you should always be able to rely on yourself to fix anything - so I can dismantle a car engine and rebuild it, re-wire a house, plumb in a kitchen, tile floors/walls and so on.

As an aside, a generation lasts 25 years, the chances of you and your brother being different generations is highly unlikely - generation X is generally used to denote those born in the 70's and 80's, generation Y starts some time in the 90's.

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Agreed, I was brought up to fix things that I could fix (and to take an interest in how everything works - better chance of fixing it that way as well!) but I can't honestly say that I think most of my generation have been brought up in this way. In fact, I'm almost certainly in a minority.

Part of it, though, I think is experience. My dad, for example, is infinitely better at woodwork, concreting etc. But then he's had years to use and refine those skills, I can do it, but haven't gained enough experience to consider myself any good. So the older generation will always seem to be better at some things than us, though when we become the older generation I suspect the younger will think the same thing.

What we do need to do, though, is try and get rid of this idea that you just throw something away if it's broken. If I can't fix something, I'll normally cannibalise it for parts that may be of use for something else (doesn't make you popular with the other half though!) rather than give up and throw the whole thing away.

As you say, if it's cheaper to replace than fix, then it's a no brainer.

Speaking of which, I've got to stop procrastinating, I've got a caliper to replace.

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3D printing should lead to less people fixing things - the cost of replacing an item will tend towards the price of raw feedstock and a bit of energy. Will eventually always be cheaper to print a new one than fix the old one.

For a while 3D printers will help those who fix things by printing out a new spare part for the larger item, but before long they'll be able to just print a whole large item. Fun times ahead.

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I don't see that it will, I think it can mean people fixing things that were unfixable or hard to fix due to a crucial plastic part snapping.

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Re: Fixing stuff

To be brutally honest these "amazing" practical skills do not strike me as particularly impressive. The main thing you cite is your electronics expertise. Sure, I have that too. I can design a circuit then make the PCB to implement it, populate it with components, adapt an enclosure to suit it and complete the job. Reasonably advanced stuff - complete computer systems - but as another poster alluded too, that is only within one particular domain.

More generally I consider myself among the more practical of my generation (early thirties). My carpentry is quite good, as is my metalwork, including even machining although I've never learned to weld.

However, I still don't consider myself to be highly practical. It the usual problem of where is the baseline for comparison. For me it is my father and aside from a few specialisms where I exceed him I come up well short. This is a man who is an electrician by trade, but has also installed gas appliances, central heating, double glazing etc etc. He built his own workshop - a proper brick building with services - by hand by himself. He's currently building his own sports car - not from a kit but from box section and sheet steel.

One example that still amazes me: a few years ago he was fixing an issue with my sister's car and diagnosed a need for a new exhaust. Money was tight for her at that point so he looked through his collection of junk valuable spares and found a potential replacement. One problem - it was the wrong size and if fitted the greater obstruction would choke off the engine. That didn't rule out the exhaust - he went indoors and explained he needed to "figure out what size hole to knock into the exhaust" to make it work.

This sounds incredibly crude and approximate but consider that she had that car for another three or four years with that modified exhaust fitted, and it continued to pass its MOT. Remember, this is an electrician, not a mechanic, and it is precisely that kind of advanced skill across the board that previous generations had but are generally lacking in the under forties.

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Anonymous Coward

@EvilGav 1

It is entirely possible for 2 brothers to be in two different generations.

I am not the person you are replying to, but I was born in 1977. My younger brother was born in 2004.

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Re: @EvilGav 1

I agree that it's entirely possible , my mum being born 29 years after her eldest brother.

I do however accept that this is the exception rather than the norm

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Facepalm

Re: Fixing stuff

I lodged with a couple in their 80's who between them couldn't change a light bulb. They were both physically active, so this had nothing to do with physical ability. They had both been brought up in an environment where you got somebody in to do that sort of thing.

I, on the other hand, fix a lot of things myself.

Other posters have suggested it's more about upbringing than which generation you belong to. I think this is closer to the mark. It doesn't tell the whole story though because that would lay the blame squarely at the feet of parents. This can't be entirely true because parents have a habit of trying to pass on what they're good at to their offspring.

I think the reason for the decline is because of the change in the aspirations of children. Back when i was a kid, everybody wanted to be an astronaut or a train driver. Now they all want to be pop stars or footballers.

Selling the idea that putting this engine back together is a worthwhile learning experience to the later is a lot harder than it is to the former.

I'll leave you all to discuss what caused the change in aspiration.

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Headmaster

Aaaactually ...

As an aside, a generation lasts 25 years, the chances of you and your brother being different generations is highly unlikely - generation X is generally used to denote those born in the 70's and 80's, generation Y starts some time in the 90's.

His brother could be just one year younger and still be in a different generation. That doesn't seem too unlikely.

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Megaphone

Re: Fixing stuff

Fixing stuff is is fulfilling.

But wasting stuff is fun

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Headmaster

re: generation X is generally used to denote those born in the 70's and 80's..

Umm, genX is people born early 60's to early 80's, (i.e. post baby boomers). Gen Y, early 80's to 2000.

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This is evidently evil

Maybe boring by now, but: When the revolution comes, guys who take out patents like that will be first up against the wall.

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DJV
Joke

Re: This is evidently evil

Hopefully, unless someone manages to patent walls!

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I see something positive in this

It's another incentive _not_ to put DRM into those systems as you'd then need to pay licence fees for this trivial patent.

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There is no technology in the patent, just 57 vague high-level descriptions

Take a look at the patent for yourselves.

There is no technology in the patent, just 57 vague high-level descriptions of what could be done.

It would be like getting the patent on automobiles with this patent:

1. A method for moving mass from A to B by converting energy to translational movement.

2. The method of claim 1 wherein energy is converted from chemical form to mechanical form.

3. The method of claim 1 wherein energy is converted from phase state form to mechanical form.

4. The method of claim 1 wherein energy is converted from atomic form to mechanical form.

5. The method of claim 1 wherein energy is converted from spiritual form to mechanical form.

6. The method of claim 1 wherein energy is converted from metaphysical form to mechanical form.

7. The method of claim 1 wherein energy is converted from trans-dimensional quantum string form to mechanical form.

8. The method of claim 1 wherein energy is converted from trans-dimensional quantum pulse form to mechanical form.

No technology, just vague words so vague as to include any technology and industrious innovator might actually invent.

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Meh

Meh

DRM doesn't work. It's mathematically impossible. It relies, underneath it all, on a proposition being simultaneously true and false. Nothing anyone could invent is going to change that.

Anyone seeking to challenge the patent need only compare DRM to a perpetual motion machine (which are already excluded from patentability).

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Re: Meh

With the human mind, "impossible" doesn't apply. Consider the term "doublespeak", where one lies and wholeheartedly believes it to be the truth, while still recognizing it as a lie, all at once. And while we're not at 1984 levels, doublespeak seems to have found some niches.

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Paris Hilton

Is this not the logical conclusion of rounded corners?

Personally I was just saving up for an MRI scanner and a 3D printer so I could make anything I want but it looks like someone thinks they can somehow own a shape now.

<--- I would have made a fortune with a few of these!

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Hmmm, can I patent a method by which a letter box will examine a letter to see if the recipient is allowed to read it?

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Trollface

Complaints about patents

I am very disappointed to see so many of you complaining about patents. Why, if it weren't for the patent system, we would all be substantially worse off, as one AO has so recently pointed out. A case in point. Just tonight, I set about dealing with a stubborn splinter that had become lodged in my hand after a day of cutting branches. I decided to query Google to see what the state of the art in wood sliver removal technology might be. It showed to me the following two patents:

1. http://www.google.com/patents/US4570613, A method of removing splinters and the like from the human body,

2. http://www.google.com/patents/US5334195, A method and article for removing splinters where a disposable lancet is used to pierce the patient's skin

Think, all of you patent nay-sayers, how, if were not for the system of patents currently in force, such discoveries as the above might never seen the light of day. Reflect, ye doubters, that it is not only just but fitting that the holders of these patents, these discoverers, should be rewarded for their contributions to the welfare of all mankind.

So, shame on you all! We're all better off for the system of patents. I for one am now splinter free and will be posting a cheque in the morning.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Complaints about patents

I'm just hoping there isn't a patent for having a sh*t in the woods.

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Thumb Up

Re: Complaints about patents

"I am very disappointed to see so many of you complaining about patents. Why, if it weren't for the patent system, we would all be substantially worse off, as one AO has so recently pointed out. A case in point. Just tonight, I set about dealing with a stubborn splinter that had become lodged in my hand after a day of cutting branches. I decided to query Google to see what the state of the art in wood sliver removal technology might be. It showed to me the following two patents:

1. http://www.google.com/patents/US4570613, A method of removing splinters and the like from the human body,

2. http://www.google.com/patents/US5334195, A method and article for removing splinters where a disposable lancet is used to pierce the patient's skin

Think, all of you patent nay-sayers, how, if were not for the system of patents currently in force, such discoveries as the above might never seen the light of day. Reflect, ye doubters, that it is not only just but fitting that the holders of these patents, these discoverers, should be rewarded for their contributions to the welfare of all mankind."

Nice troll.

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Joke

Re: Complaints about patents

I'm just hoping there isn't a patent for having a sh*t in the woods.

Their is....

But as long as you are not a large fur covered mammal with large teeth and claws, with a predisposition for picnic baskets then your ok.... but proceed with caution !

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Re: Complaints about patents

"I'm just hoping there isn't a patent for having a sh*t in the woods.

Their is....

But as long as you are not a large fur covered mammal with large teeth and claws, with a predisposition for picnic baskets then your ok.... but proceed with caution !"

Eh ?

Oh.. as you were. I forgot about the Swiss Mercenary rearguard.

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WTF?

Re: Complaints about patents

I looked at the links to assure myself the masked one was joking. And he's not.

Unbefunckingleivable...

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Pirate

Pah

Within 6 months it will be cracked wide open...

DRM does not stop piracy. Never has, never will. It is seen as an obstacle to overcome....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pah

...and it's not like someone can't reasinably reproduce a given part if they have physical access to it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pah

But the need to measure the original, consider tolerances, appropiate material and other factors introduces an initial investment of effort on behalf the copier.

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Pirate

Re: Pah

First thing that has to be done to get this patent to gain even the smallest bit of traction anyway is to get all the currently existing software/drivers/firmware to magically stop working, to be replaced with DRM-ed versions only.

In short: not going to happen.

The above doesn't exempt Intellectual Vultures and their ilk from being subjected to the Автомат Калашникова treatment though.

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Re: Pah

Within 6 months it will be cracked wide open...

That's not a given. It's possible to have a DRM system with mathematically provable security. That doesn't mean that they're easy to implement, though, and the state of the cryptographic arts always gets better while your DRM has to stay static.

The biggest problem with DRM (from a technical standpoint) is key exchange and key management. You could theoretically make a perfectly secure DRM system, but it means that every user or device has to have their own personal key, and the hardware has to be resistant to tampering. In practice, this makes it totally impractical.

The biggest problem with DRM in 3D printers (as in this case) is that it's impossible to prevent them from making a new printer that simply doesn't have any DRM in it :)

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Yet more DRM let loose. ARRRGH!

Yeah Right

I can just see all RepRap builders modding their software so that they can hen have the privelege of paying for things they now print for just the material and energy cost.

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Silver badge

Not sure about this one.

I may have bored you before about my [Brand] tumble-dryer failing because of a single thermosoftening plastic door latch component that warped in the heat, and the efficient website the original manufacturer had set up to take £16 +pp off me for its replacement.

I imagine that this it is this sort of set-up the organisation who applied for this patent had in mind. Perhaps they envisage (or, more likely, can't rule out) a future where companies like [Brand] will licence this DRM technique so as to 'sell' a one use 3d print to an end user or repair shop.

A simple part such as this door latch component could be easily modelled in 3 dimensions by anyone conversant with 2D vector applications (or for purely extruded parts such as this, a non-cad-skilled user could just place the part on a conventional scanner and tell dedicated software how thick it is). Result: STL file, no DRM.

More complex parts might justify a download of an STL, be its source the OE manufacturer (be it freely provided, leaked or 'pirated'), or someone else reverse-engineering the original part. These files will not be have DRM either.

In this respect, I would side with the pirates: Equipment manufacturers should charge more upfront instead of making their money on spare parts, so that the consumer can more fairly compare one tumble-dryer or dishwasher against another. In this case, 'piracy' would be encouraging fair practice, but wouldn't deprive OEMs of their core business. Of course, it is all hypothetical whether a such business model that uses DRM will even be attempted... even if it were a very unlikely scenario, it seems that the small cost of investment in a patent can sometimes pay off very big.

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Anonymous Coward

NPC

Maybe there should be a law that non-perishables like tumble dryers come with an estimate of net present cost. Fail to get the estimate right (within a reasonable margin of error) and you have to pay all customers the difference plus interest on the difference and compensation for screwing them in the first place. You could supply not only the mean estimated cost, but a higher cost that you guarantee has a 0.99 chance of not being incurred.

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In short

They can sod off.

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Pirate

When will (most) companies realize that DRM not only never works, but that it punishes legit consumers more than it does the pirates?

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Anonymous Coward

I think many of the worst DRM-pushers are well aware of it.

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Stop

DRM: No One Admitted.

Digital restrictions management (DRM) limits user freedom by digitally locking files to certain formats and platforms. DRM hinders liberation of individuals and society, and consumers should stop paying for devices and files that are specifically engineered to monitor them and restrict their use. DRM is infecting electronics all around the world -- it makes things more expensive and complicated for the user.

Thankfully there's already a 3d printer that doesn't limit it's potential by introducing DRM. The LulzBot AO-100 3D Printer is certified by the Free Software Foundation to respect your freedoms -- the hardware design is freely licensed, it's software is freely licensed, and it's documentation is freely licensed.

Read more at defectivebydesign.org and fsf.org/ryf

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Anonymous Coward

A poll at work showed....

That the most popular item to be printed first was a dildo.

DRM that!

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Anonymous Coward

But... But...

Without DRM, what incentive would there be to present one's member for scanning and modelling? Think of the artists.

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Happy

Stupid Pricing on Small parts

The day before a holiday the door on our tumbler drier failed as the spring for the catch was too strong for the small weak plastic landing zone. A clothes peg was sacrificed to make a new spring that touched down on a stronger area. I never did get round to fitting a new door, I replaced the machine 8 years later, This was not the first or last time I replaced a dodgy bit of design with some cheaper and vastly better - or simply repaired the break with additional reinforcement. 3D printing might be fun, but sadly it is going to be a whole lot more costly than most cases of make do and mend. However as long as non disabled printers are sold as is the case with DVDs there will be only minor issues.

What is the major difference between 3D printers and numerically controlled milling machines which can form a very large number of 'pattern parts'. Are they also hobbled in this way?

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What is the difference?

The difference is that milling machines are much more expensive.

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