As the world turns increasingly into one in which nobody can do anything without being sued by someone, 3D Systems is suing Formlabs and Kickstarter over alleged patent infringement covering 3D printing. Formlabs had pimped its project on Kickstarter, raising nearly $US3 million towards its aim of developing a low-cost 3D …
Kickstarter probably won't be on the hook
The usual mode of operations in lawsuits is to fire them scattershot (the way the world is now I'm surprised that they aren't suing every individual user who contributed), even if most of the parties have no actual liability and will be dismissed with a simple response from a lawyer. It just sucks that they have to pay for one for no fault of their own.
Kickstarter has no responsibility to vet a project, only to stop selling it if forced by court order or agreement, so they're probably only named in order to pressure them into settling or so the court has jurisdiction over them. Clawing back a retailer's margin is significantly more difficult than infringing manufacturer's revenue, though the finer points of procedure escape me now.
Yeah... patents aren't broken at all... not when a company that's primary aim is bring a technology into the reach of the general populace is being sued over some generic patent.
Can we anti-competitive bollocks? yes we can.
Hmm, the patent doesn't appear to be generic, and just because someone wants to bring something to a wider populace, doesn't make patent infringement OK.
The patent 5,597,520 (at least partially) expired in 2010
The patent at issue was partially complete and filed in 1990 and therefor expired at least in part in 2010. Other parts expire in 2013. Formlabs certainly has only the most modest of sales now (one presumes) and had none at all in 2010.
Such a suit at best can collect damages based on lost revenues etc. Hard to see much damages.
I certainly believe 3D has done the world a service working in the late 80's on 3D printing issues when much of the crew at Formlabs were still in diapers still there is little here and 3D should not waste many hundreds of thousands of dollars to chase an empty cup.
In two years their patent 5,597,520 will be completely in the public domain.
For the same reason Formlabs should avoid paying lawyers and just make a deal that provides something to 3D for the max time they have left. Understanding that the time depends on exactly what is infringing and which of the continuations it became part of the patent. Could be anything from 0 to 2 years but not more.
There is one possible nasty bug in ointment Dennis R. Smalley put himnself as principal inventor and as PATENT COUNSEL!
This could mean he is a great genius or that Formlabs was so poor he had to do the patent attorney duty or (God save Formlabs) he could be an ego maniacal Lawyer who intrudes on the engineers domain and uber pugnacious... a schmuck who must win at all cost and one who has no cost of suit to moderate the choices of 3D's governing counsel.
I certainly could find out more about Smalley and maybe even offer a work around to Formlabs but I've got to focus on the paying tasks. Hopefully this will help.
Re: The patent 5,597,520 (at least partially) expired in 2010
As I read it, this is a software technique for how you use the hardware.
Therefore issue a software update that means Formlabs is not infringing, and then another when the patent lapses to reinstate the functionality. Oh, and give everyone who' pissed off by this the email address of the 3DLabs lawyer to bitch at.
Really, the patent lapses next year - it would have been smarter to just let it go rather than get the bad publicity and cost of a court action.
Kit model makers must be in angst...
Imagine how it feels to be a small model maker. Even in China, where many military models are made and then sold worldwide, the company execs or operators must be trmbling.
So long as an artist or hobbyist has hig resolution photos, good blueprints, and a sound 3D model, he or she can make or contract the making of custom models, possibly collaborating with the kit model maker.
The best part is that depending on the raw materials used, it may be possible to recycle unwanted protypes a couple of times to save cost of magerials. Or, those might be sold off as fan-pursued one-off items at a premium price.
Now, imagine museums producing and curating their own or licensed art. It might be attractive in that there need not be the expense in and insuring of exotic arts that have to be handled or transported carefully. If of sufficient or convincing quality, museums no longer be held back by deadlines, exhibit piece rotations, and so on, assuming these are not too larege or too time-consuming to assemble.
I don't know...
I admit my knowledge of 3D printing is shamefully lax but I don't think this should be dismissed as just another patent troll case. Reading through the patent on another site, it's a pretty convoluted method, so it doesn't fall under "rounded corners" or "slide X into slot Y". The lawsuit against Kickstarter should be a non-starter though.
As an aside, I've just had a rather wonderful idea. Kickstarter is a way of funding worthwhile ideas through crowd funding. So it got me wondering as to what the reverse might be and bingo:
www. classactionstarter . com
Lawyers put up various situations and ideas that they think might be grounds for a class action lawsuit and if an idea gets enough support and money to cover the legal fees it goes ahead!
Re: I don't know...
I don't know if that is a very good idea or a very bad one.
Re: I don't know...
The worst of both worlds?
Speaking of Kickstarter
Apologies - this is tangentially on-topic at best.
I see that funding of the new Elite game has ground to a halt. This rather comical chart on Kicktraq tells the story (ignore Kicktraq forecasts, they're useless unless you have smooth income. I'd guess they're going to come in well south of a million, meaning nothing happens.
Real shame, mostly because of the daft prices (£30 for a PC game on Kickstarter, delivered who-knows when?! £15 just to reserve your commanders name!). Bitten by their own greed, sadly. Shame, shame, shame.
Re: Speaking of Kickstarter
Actually you can get a copy of the game for £20 which is very cheap for a PC game.
Thanks for reminding me about this, I've now joined Kickstarter and pledged towards a new version of my favourite 80s game. :)
Re: Speaking of Kickstarter
Bear in mind that Elite still has at least a month to run and that many people may be more inclined to pledge after payday at the end of November. Also, most Kickstarters tend to slow down in the middle phase before ramping up again at the end (The Double Fine and Order of The Stick comic were two that followed this pattern).
Re: Speaking of Kickstarter
Virtually all funding graphs on Kickstarter follow the same curve - all the activity comes at the start and end of the funding period, when people are feeling vitalised. That big spike at the beginning is reasonably indicative of the likelihood that a project is funded successfully.
Not in any way a non practicing entity
When a team creates an invention as is true here in 5,597,520 and then tries directly or even indirectly to enforce that patent it is absolutely honorable and correct for them to try to do so.
It may not be wise or good business, but they have the high moral ground.
Every yahoo who bleats on this and other blogs about the evil of patents in general rather a specific patent or specific players actions, and who implies some vague moral failing of people who frequently give their lives for their visions for mens futures is the voice of powerful companies who would like nothing better then that juries favor the wealthy and powerful over the EVIL INVENTOR and PATENT OWNER.