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Both Kickstarter and its user, Formlabs, sued over patent

by Alistair Lowe on 22 November 2012, 13:15

Tags: Kickstarter

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It has been revealed that highly successful Kickstarter project, the FORM 1 3D printer by Formlabs and, Kickstarter itself, are being sued by 3D systems, a firm long-established in the business.

The case in question revolves around patents in the stereolithography process used to cure resin with a laser/ultraviolet light.

3D printing is a new area that is moving much faster, driven by demand, into the affordable consumer domain than industry bigwigs would like to see happen, as this risks compromising sales and profit margins from long established monopolies.

3D Systems says that it is "well known" within the industry and that it had already been involved in several lawsuits in attempts to protect its patent rights, stating that Formlabs either must have known or chosen not to find out whether there might be a risk of patent infringement.

Using the FORM 1

Opposingly, 3D Systems also stated that one of Formlab's co-founders had said one of the reasons the firm was able to offer the printer at such a low cost had been that several patents had expired "meaning that the team didn't need to pay high licensing fees to get this product to market." suggesting that Formlabs did indeed do at least some patent searching.

Should 3D Systems have a legitimate patent claim, though it seems perhaps hasty to jump into court without seemingly first attempting a settlement, there's not much Formlabs can do. What's most surprising and, perhaps further highlighting a mean-streak in the company is that it is suing Kickstarter for advertising the product and taking a percentage of donations.

It's not generally common practise to sue a firm that effectively advertises on-behalf of a client mandate. This writer is beginning to wonder if he should sue UKTV because he was irreparably harmed by the 'Go Compare' advertisements aired on the Dave channel, to which UKTV took payment for...



HEXUS Forums :: 9 Comments

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Maybe we could start a class action lawsuit against the Go Compare ads.... :D
And this is why patents have failed in their original purpose. Innovation can be stifled just by a bigger competitor starting litigation - It doesn't matter if you've infringed or not - How can a small company defend itself against this sort of action? Accurate 3D printing will be coming to the masses despite '3D Systems' attempts to corner the market.
cheesemp
And this is why patents have failed in their original purpose. Innovation can be stifled just by a bigger competitor starting litigation - It doesn't matter if you've infringed or not - How can a small company defend itself against this sort of action? Accurate 3D printing will be coming to the masses despite '3D Systems' attempts to corner the market.


The problem is that even if there was no real case, they could blow through a significant chunk of their kickstarted funding just trying to defend it.
And hopefully recover costs thus just delaying it? Still not great though, unless the patent is valid in this case...
I notice that in the press release they don't mention any specific patent number or specific process which they believe has been infringed upon. The tone of things appear to more be vague generic accusations aimed at having a chilling effect on competition then actually protecting work they've done to design something novel and non-obvious. Obviously we need more details to judge, but perhaps a reasonably priced product competing is more what bothers them.