Makerbot

MakerBot Responds To Critics Who Claim It Is Stealing Community IP

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MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis made an official statement regarding the claims that the company has patented a number of community-created 3D printing improvements and tools. The claims emerged after a number of MakerBot patents appeared online.

“At MakerBot we file patents. There is a Patent Office and patent process and we have chosen, since the beginning of MakerBot, to participate in this process. It’s a part of doing business in the world of IP that isn’t optimal but it’s what we do as a part of being a competitive company,” he said.

The outrage revolved primarily around MakerBot’s initial mission of maintaining a repository of its own open source hardware as well as Thingiverse, a user-generated database of 3D models. By ostensibly patenting community designs, critics argued, the company was stealing from the users and damaging the open source relationship.

The original MakerBot printers were based on the open source RepRap printer design although later versions of the hardware and software were essentially proprietary. The company came under fire after 3D printer maker Stratasys acquired it last year and subsequently charged 3D printer maker Afinia with infringing on basic 3D printing patents.

As for the current controversy, Pettis explained that the company filed a patent on at least one of those designs at least a year before the community-built version appeared. In fact, Pettis encourages users to submit prior art to the patent office to keep the patents strong and specific. He writes:

AtMakerBot we file patents. There is a Patent Office and patent process and we have chosen, since the beginning ofMakerBot, to participate in this process. It’s a part of doing business in the world of IP that isn’t optimal but it’s what we do as a part of being a competitive company.Our patent application for our quick-release extruder dates back to October, 2012, and has not yet been approved. [The Quick Release project onThingiverse was posted in 2013.]

We updated that patent application in October 2013.

Relevant Thingiverse work is being submitted to the Patent Office.We want strong patents based on our own work, so we encourage anyone to submit prior art to the Patent Office.