EFF To Challenge Six Innovation-Stifling 3D-Printing Patents

As 3D printers become more ubiquitous, small manufacturers have two choices – build and hope for the best or cede to patent trolls who own a number of basic patents around extrusion and additive manufacturing. Sadly, more of those patents are being filed daily and many have plenty of prior art available that would make them unwelcome at the Patent Office.

Formlabs, for example, is facing this issue with their unique additive printer. Luckily, the EFF is currently challenging six of those early patents including one that deals with the creation of confections using extruders full of chocolate.

Julie Samuels at the EFF writes:

If there’s something that drives us crazy, it’s when patents get in the way of innovation. Unfortunately, we often don’t find out about the most dangerous patents until it’s too late—once they’ve been used to assert infringement. That’s why we were encouraged by the new provision of the patent law that allows third parties to easily challenge patent applications while those applications are still pending.But, here’s the rub: it’s hard to identify those dangerous applications. And, once you do, it’s even harder to find the right information to challenge those applications during the window that the law allows.

Documents the EFF is filing are essentially examples of prior art that would invalidate these patents. They also offer links to StackExchange so interested parties can submit their own examples of prior art. Patents can protect ideas but more and more they are being used to destroy small innovators. It’s good that the EFF is standing up in favor of a nascent and important technology and that it’s getting to it so early on in the process.