The EFF Needs Help Keeping 3D Printing Free

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is planning for a future when 3D printing, thanks to “creative” patents, could no longer be free. Because the technology is so nascent, patenting parts of the process or renewing expiring patents could prevent incremental improvement of the technology out of fear or patent infringement. The EFF wants to head this off at the pass.

Their proposal is fairly simple but will take a lot of work. In short, they want people to supply prior art when it comes to 3D printing design and manufacture. They will troll the patent records for potential problems and then, once they’ve gathered things up, they’ll need your help figuring out what can’t be patented.

Once target applications are identified, we will seek out relevant prior art. We’ll be asking for your help again then, so please watch this space. Any document that was publicly available before an application was filed is considered prior art; this can include emails to public lists, websites, and even doctoral theses. Because of the time limit, once we identify the target applications, we must complete the prior art search quickly.

You can help the EFF by heading over here and emailing them if you’ve found particular applications that must be challenged.

Nascent technology often suffers because of early and egregious patenting. The Internet, in many ways, has been hampered by people creating obvious patents (and the USPTO not being able to check them) in the course of building out infrastructure and applications. Let’s not let that happen here. With your help, we can all be like 3D-printed Success Kid.