Company Sues Kickstarter Over 3D Printer Patent, Maligns 'Hackers And Makers'

from the that-is-ridiculous dept

We’ve been pointing out for a while that one of the reasons why advancements in 3D printing have been relatively slow is because of patents holding back the market. However, a bunch of key patents have started expiring, leading to new opportunities. One, in particular, that has received a fair bit of attention was the Formlabs 3D printer, which raised nearly $3 million on Kickstarter earlier this year. It got a ton of well-deserved attention for being one of the first “low end” (sub ~$3,000) 3D printers with very impressive quality levels.

Part of the reason the company said it could offer such a high quality printer at a such a low price, relative to competitors, was because some of the key patents had expired, allowing it to build key components without having to pay astronomical licensing fees. A company called 3D Systems, however, claims that Formlabs missed one patent. It holds US Patent 5,597,520 on a “Simultaneous multiple layer curing in stereolithography.” While I find it ridiculous that 3D Systems is going legal, rather than competing in the marketplace, it’s entirely possible that the patent is valid. It just highlights how the system holds back competition that drives important innovation, though.

3D Systems claims that Formlabs “took deliberate acts to avoid learning” about 3D Systems’ live patents. The lawsuit claims that Formlabs looked only for expired patents — which seems like a very odd claim. Why would they only seek expired patents? Either way, the lawsuit claims that all of the articles that highlighted how the expiration of patents made Formlabs’ printer possible meant that Formlabs must have known about its patents. Again, not quite sure the reasoning makes much sense here.

But what’s really crazy is that 3D Systems isn’t just going after Formlabs… but Kickstarter as well. You can read the whole filing here. 3D Systems is claiming that because Kickstarter takes a cut, it’s equally liable.

Upon information and belief, Formlabs and it sales agent Kickstarter knew or should have known about, or were willfully blind to, 3D Systems’ extensive patent rights in the area of three-dimensional printing and stereolithography, including but not limited to 3D Systems’ U.S. Patent No. 5,597,520 covering improved methods of stereolithographically forming a three-dimensional object by forming cross-sectional layers of an object from a material capable of physical transformation upon exposure to synergistic stimulation, by virtue of their sales of machines touted by Formlabs as using “stereolithography (SL) technology,” which is a technology invented and extensively patented by 3D Systems and its founder Charles Hull.

The accusations against Kickstarter are really ridiculous — suggesting that it encouraged infringement:

Upon information and belief, Kickstarter contributes to the infringement of the ‘520 Patent by offering to sell and selling within the United States the Form 1 3D printer which is an apparatus for use in practicing patented processes of the ‘520 Patent, constituting a material part of the invention, knowing the same to be especially made or especially adapted for use in an infringement of the ‘520 Patent, and the Form 1 3D Printer is not a staple article or commodity of commerce suitable for substantial noninfringing use.

Upon information and belief, Kickstarter knowingly or with willful blindness induced and continues to induce infringement and possessed specific intent to encourage another’s infringement by, or was willfully blind as to the ‘520 Patent and with respect to, its activities and Formlabs’ activities described above.

Most bizarre of all? 3D Systems claims that because Kickstarter encourages “hacker and maker” projects, it’s knowingly encouraging infringement — as if “hackers and makers” are only about infringement. This is a really cynical attempt to tie those words to a negative connotation where clearly none is meant.

Upon information and belief, Kickstarter had specific intent to infringe the ‘520 Patent by virtue of its agency, business and sales arrangement with Formlabs, which had actual knowledge of the ‘520 Patent and/or was willfully blind to the existence of the ‘520 Patent as set forth in the allegations above.

Indeed, in Kickstarter’s own Guidelines as to “Project must fit Kickstarter’s categories” at, under section 02, under “View Design and Technology requirements,” Kickstarter is actively encouraging “hacker and maker” companies to make 3D printers for Kickstarter to sell, stating: “Not everything that involves design or technology is permitted on Kickstarter. While there is some subjectivity in these rules, we’ve adopted them to maintain our focus on creative projects: D.I.Y. We love projects from the hacker and maker communities (weekend experiments, 3D printers, CNC machines) and projects that are open source. Software projects should be run by the developers themselves.”

I’ve read those paragraphs over a few times and I still can’t see what the issue is there. How is supporting hackers and makers somehow evidence of “intent to infringe”?

Either way, 3D Systems has now permanently placed itself into the category of companies not worth ever doing business with. Suing Kickstarter just because a competitor was selling a better, cheaper 3D printer and you got jealous? Shameful.

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Companies: 3dsystems, formlabs, kickstarter

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Comments on “Company Sues Kickstarter Over 3D Printer Patent, Maligns 'Hackers And Makers'”

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in_to_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

oh their houses might use nails in them. NAILS! does anyone even know who invented nails? no? that’s because they’ve been STOLEN! dirty ass pirate home depot profiting off someone’s hard work! and then you freetards come along and make HOUSES with those stolen goods! you should all be ASHAMED! and sued for billions of dollars AND have your homes demolished!

themusicgod1 (profile) says:

expired patents

> Why would they only seek expired patents?

The same reason LiteSQL does, no doubt. Because that way the only way you’re getting your ass sued into smoldering ashes via patent lawsuit is if the Patent Office allows something to be patented twice, or if something that you’ve come up with has been patented and you’ve never noticed it, in which case see ChurchHatesTucker’s comment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Infringing on gobbledygook

exposure to synergistic stimulation

That simply means the radiation (light) that triggers the required chemical reactions.
They did not want to say UV light in case someone came up with a chemical whose reaction could be triggered by other radiation, such as visible light.

MikeVx (profile) says:

Re: Re: Infringing on gobbledygook

UV curing is very old technology, my dentist has been curing fillings with UV for well over a decade. Either these guys own the patent on the fillings in my teeth, they are infringing on another patent, or someone screwed up somewhere because there should only be one patent for UV curing, the rest should have been dumped.

Tex Arcana (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Infringing on gobbledygook

This is to serve notice that you are in violation of my patent, “Appropriate Use of Sarcasm As A Vehicle For Humor And Derision.” You will receive a visit from my lawyers, Big Louie and Jimmy da Fish, for the expressed purpose of extracting cash out of your wallet, as well as large sums of money from your bank accounts and credit cards.

Resistance is futile.

Tobias Harms (profile) says:

Re: Why not?

Actually, I think that is called a “pawn shop”. But as I wrote higher up in an other comment. This isn’t about stealing so don’t mix up the lingo. This is more like if Apple had sued stores for selling Samsung phones.

And sure, if the judges rule in Apples favor because of their revolutionary round corners and what not then they might take action against stores as well

ld says:

Re: Why not?

Another brainiac who doesn’t understand patents or services.
A) An infringed patent isn’t “stolen goods”, all a patent does is grant you a license to sue, it is not a tangible object subject to actual theft and is infringing on it is a civil matter, not a criminal one. We let Walmart sell stuff that’s borderline infringement all the time when they buy that “as seen on TV” stuff from the same Chinese factories their inventors had them made at and cut them out. the inventor of that hair gadget, the one that makes the funky ponytails, sued them over it and won. Didn’t matter for her in the end though, because she didn’t get enough to cover the time she lost dealing with it and the market for her gadget was pretty much done by then.

B) Involving Kickstarter is like suing the telephone company because bad people make phone calls. Kickstarter provides a service that they have limited control over, just as the phone company has little control over what you do with the phone once you obtained one, so does kickstarter once you’ve gotten onto it. They have no way of determining if your device or company is an infringer and it’s not their responsibility to do so.

C) A preference for a particular DIY technology, like 3D printing, in no way implies criminal tendencies, just as being a gun owner or preferring internet anonymity does not make one a criminal. In fact, large multi-patent holding corporations use 3D printing in the invention process all the time, why wouldn’t an outfit about kickstarting innovative businesses be interested in it?

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Why not?

I love kickstarter but they should be policing their “shelves.”

Unfortunately the cost of poilicing those shelves would put them out of business. With s/w patents it has been shown to be mathematically impossible to avoid infringement. NOw it is true that this is a h/w patent – but all the same it would be extremely expensive for kickstarter to check everything adequately. If they tried then the most likely result would be the loss of many non-infringing projects because of the doubt involved.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why not?

So they should police forward in time to realize that some obscure company somewhere holds a patent that may or may not be related to a product that they are selling on their shelves. Makes perfect sense, right? It’s like how Apple demanded that Wal-Mart and Best Buy close up their store after they were found to be selling Samsung tablets.

Tex Arcana (profile) says:

Re: Re: Why not?

So someone needs to make a time machine to go forward in time and find infringements so they can initiate the lawsuits now; and thereby have the monetary damages waiting for them in an account when the time comes!!

Imagine the possibilities!! Taking loans against future collateral! Arrested for future crimes! Convicted and executed in Texas for rustling stuff patented in the future by someone from the past!!

The trolls will have a field day!

JMT says:

Re: Why not?

“If the allegations are true (and that’s what a trial is supposed to find out) then it seems like they knowingly helped an infringer steal patents and profit from it.”

So you claim they “knowingly” infringed on a patent, but in the same sentence point out that a trail is required to knowif the allegation is true. WTF?!

In future, think your argument through before commenting.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why not?

Why not?


There is nothing clear about the claims of aiding criminal activity, since Kickstarter is not bound by law to make absolutely sure there is no criminal activity and that would be impossible, not even there are laws forcing it to conduct any kind of pre-screening, therefore it doesn’t need to look for anything just like others business are not mandated to screen every client they have for possible criminal activity that is just ridiculous, are all the others business out there that do business with criminals also criminals? of course no, they would be if there was specific instances that could prove intent, malice, pre-meditation or all, which in this case is lacking, the lawyer responsible for this probably thought he go fishing and ask for the heavens but he was aiming for much lower. “They should have known better” is not something that Kickstarter is obliged by law and there is no evidence that they knew about any patents or possible legal problems they don’t even operate on the same commercial space of the plaintiff, so that is that, it is a non starter.

Further how do you suggest anybody police millions of patents written with fuzzy language by less than honest lawyers with no tools for searching that database effectively and where such queries for actual patents can be construed and it is used to show intent and can lead to treble damages?

Unless forced to search that, I doubt any business that offers some service or product to anybody would do it.

I don’t see Wal-Mart, Blockbuster, Record Labels, Studios, Manufacturers or Banks doing research to see if any of their clients or business partners are breaking any laws, why should Kickstarter then?

BTW the only thing we should never accept is the stole freedom to make something, ideas are not property and should never be property, these insane monopolies are the true crime.

ldne says:

Re: Why not?

A patent is a license to sue it is NOT a material object that can be stocked on a shelf. Neither is providing a *service* through which someone can present their pitch to potential investors in any a store. Your analogy is so lame it isn’t even funny, including kickstarter in this lawsuit is like suing the phone company because someone annoyed someone or made a deal with a telephone that could be suable in civil court. Violating a patent isn’t a criminal court matter, it’s a civil court one. Oh, and just to be clear, we do allow brick and mortar stores to stock their shelves with patent infringing items, they’ve done so repeatedly, because nothing is done about the manufacturer of the items supplying them to the store until the patent holder sues them.

Tobias Harms (profile) says:

Hackers != Crackers

Part of the problem here is the confusion by people outside of “the scene”. A hacker has become the same as a cracker/phreaker/phisher for most people.

Not that many remember anymore that hackers originally where people who liked to tinker with stuff. Make them do things never intended. They are the mashup artists of the hardware world…

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Hackers != Crackers

That’s because some people refuse to be corrected, others are simply lazy or contrary for the sake of being contrary, while others still are intent on using “hacker” with no qualifier (e.g., malicious) for such purposes as they believe it serves their interests.

Queue up all the “language evolves” whingers and the rest of the meta-contrarians with low-quality arguments.

Daniel Farley says:


Upon information and belief, Formlabs and it sales agent Kickstarter knew or should have known about, or were willfully blind to, 3D Systems’ extensive patent rights…

Kickstarter contributes to the infringement of the ‘520 Patent by offering to sell and selling within the United States the Form 1 3D printer…

It seems like they’re trying to make Kickstarter out as a merchant for a product rather than a crowd-sourcing platform for donations/development capital. Kickstarter does not sell anything directly so I’m a little lost as to how they can “induce infringement”.

Also, they’re trying to make the assumption that Kickstarter has any extensive knowledge about the projectsthey host or that they somehow research them individually. With the number of active projects they host I can’t see how they can possibly be expected to sort through them all and “detect” whether it might be infringing on any of the stupid, overly broad patents that exist.

Once again, here’s an example of the patent system used to squash competition and block progress…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wat?

Also, they’re trying to make the assumption that Kickstarter has any extensive knowledge about the projectsthey host or that they somehow research them individually.

They presumably have not read the front page of Kickstarter, where they explicitly state it is up to the funders to assess the project. In any reasonable legal system Kickstarter should be able to get itself removed from the case and gat its costs of doing so back, they explicitly state that the do not carry out any evaluation of a project other that to see that it meets their rules. In this case that they had a working prototype, and that it had an end goal, a production ready model.

Trying to hold Kickstarter in any way responsible for patent infringement is the same as trying to hold any funding source, such as banks and investors, liable for patent infringement.

MikeVx (profile) says:

Re: Re: Wat?

“reasonable legal system”.

This the US, you should know better.

Also, the point addressed in your last sentence is the ultimate goal of all industries based on the fiction known as IP. While you specify patents, copyright is in there also.

The position held by the industries is: We own it forever, you owe us when you use it, every time you use it, there is no safe level of remove to escape owing us.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Wat?

I was only pointing out what should happen, not what would happen. I suspect that 3D systems were resti9ng on their laurels in this area and have been caught unawares by someone opening up a new market niche.
Having looked up 3D systems, they may be after another model of home 3D printer to extend their existing range of extrusion printers, with a stereolithographic printer which they do not appear to have in this market. It is either that, or they fear it will take away from their higher end industrial market.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Wat?

Formlabs and it sales agent Kickstarter knew or should have known about, or were willfully blind to

Why do they get to claim both of those? They should have to pick EITHER that they knew or should have known about, OR that they were willfully blind, and then try to prove that. To claim it was one or the other mutually exclusive condition and sue them for whichever it was makes no sense.

davidd says:

money is the key

if it makes money you will either be copied by one of the big five without them paying you your patent license fee, or you will get sued.

patents stopped protecting the smart inventor a long time ago. Patents are government enforced monopolies on technology.

sounds to me that any brickmortar house is prior art to this synergetic stacking clause.

Anonymous Coward says:

By the description of the patent in various news articles, it sounds that this patent is non-critical, it sounds like its software that re-maps the tool path to enhance build up of structural sections in the path. This function could be done by the part designer themselves, if they had an editor which displayed the path the laser will take as it forms the part, and allows the operator to modify that path.

So It sounds like the patented Idea could be implemented as a software library
that is complied or linked into the file converter that changes the 3D cad file into the file run by the 3D printer.

It could also be software implemented in the 3D printer firmware itself, but this would be a poor design decision, that introduces an addition fail point into the Printer & extra cost to the machine, since it would require faster & processor & more memory in the printer.

This 3D printer project is still in the Kickstarter fund pledge phase, people are funding based on the stated design goals, there has not been construction of any production units, and I assume prototype units would still be that, working on getting the mechanical system sorted out, the optical system sorted out, and the software system sorted out. the distance to go from 1st prototype to production model is a fair slog with a complicated machine.

This patent is unnecessary to implement this type of 3D printer, and someone who used the printer would soon discover (as all users of CNC equipment find that modifying the path of the tool will produce a superior part) getting the user to do some file editing or running the file through a program with a patent inside it. that is the choice this project has to make. and the path that leads to a working product sooner is to let the user do a final pre-edit before running the pattern through the printer.

Anyway I expect this Luxury software will been implemented by a future project either inside or outside the US (more likely somewhere that mathematics cannot be patented.)

3-D systems
It sounds as if 3D systems has run out of critical patents that they can extort with, and they are using this very complicated sounding patent. The tricks they will have to perform once they get into court are:
1. to convince the court that someone needs this patent to implement a 3-D printer (and you don’t need this patent).
2. to convince the court that what was in the project description on Kickstarter is a final real product that actually infringes their patent. (Anyone trying to raise 2 million + on Kickstarter to push the project through to create a final product does not have a final product.)

But I think this 3D Printer-Maker morphing to Patent Troll has presented an opportunity for the Formlab project & Kickstarter to use a new defence, that the patent laws are Un-Constitutional.
The Idea is, The Congress can make laws to promote progress in science and the arts, this suit begun by using laws supposedly written for that purpose. Many people who pledged to support the project would have plans to use their own 3D-printer, as part of their own projects. Projects that could be science at home & art at home, or other such stuff. In this case it should be able to be shown that these laws interfere with progress in science and the arts.
Therefore congress made a law contrary to a clear direction written into the constitution, so by implication all patent law would be Un-constitutional.

IANAL but these trolls should be put down for Good.

Finally, the crazy thing about US law is treble damages (in civilised countries punitive damages are illegal), this lawsuit if successful will ruin the Formlab project. and protect 3-D systems printer-market for maybe another 6 months, possibly enough time for the principles to sell their shares for value. before this next coming tech wave disrupts their market value.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’ll have to admit that I didn’t even bother reading the patent, but it seems that 3D Systems’ entire case is predicated on the fact that no 3D printers can be built without their patent.

So it would seem that they picked the absolute wrong moment and wrong targets to sue. They want an injunction on a prototype that hasn’t been built. I didn’t think you could infringe upon something until you actually infringed on it.

Proving Kickstarter is inducing infringement is an entirely different situation. It’s going to take some complex legal gymnastics to convince a judge that the platform is guilty for doing what it is supposed to do.

While an injunction certainly makes sense while this is all getting sorted out in court, and I say that only because the product isn’t built or being sold yet; I cannot fathom the request for damages since there have been no damages. 3D Systems has not lost a single sale and until it is proven that the patent is infringed upon then there is no need for a license on something that doesn’t exist.

Well played in jumping the gun 3D Systems. Your legal bill is going to be much higher than your sales next quarter.

The Real Michael says:

The major problem with patents is that it makes it far too easy for ideas to overlap. An idea is an intangible product of the imagination. A patent grants a person or entity the exclusive right to use a specific idea. Therefore, a patent is the government selling a monopoly on ideas, therby making it illegal to use them in your own products.

No patents = No lawsuits = Tons of innovation

Kevin (profile) says:

Johnny Cash got it wrong

The famous song should have been titles “A Country Named Sue”
The way one reads it everyone just sues everyone else over patents that should not exist.
The patent law should be changed to show that unless a patented object is not included in a readily available working product in a 12 months period the patent is surrendered.
That should stop the patent trolls dead and free developers in improving whatever the patented object is.
It is time for innovation, not just sitting on something hoping a law suit comes their way.
No wonder the USA has lost is edge on innovation.

Anonymous Coward says:

The US should just set up a computerized system that randomly picks 2 people everyday. It should then randomly generate a number from 1-100 for each person, then the person who rolled the higher number should automatically have all the losers funds transfered directly into his account.

Once this system is in place, law suits should be made illegal. Seeing as corporations are considered people in the US as well, there should be equal opportunity for them to get randomly picked. Honestly it would save everyone a lot of time and effort in the long run.

Tex Arcana (profile) says:

This United States is becoming the Soviet Union:

–You invent something, the State gets it.
–Keep your mouth shut, you get to stand in lines for toilet paper for a few more months.
–Complain, and the State sends you to Wyoming (n?e Siberia).
–Complain some more, and the State kills you.
–Meanwhile, the C̶E̶O̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶l̶a̶w̶y̶e̶r̶s̶ Politiburo members get rich off your work.
–Once in a while, they send the police to search your tenement and give you a beating, for good measure–I mean, they gotta keep the proles down, right??

Sound about right?

Sound about right?

Anonymous Coward says:

“…was selling a better, cheaper 3D printer…”

Not sure what makes the Formlabs device better and cheaper since 3D Systems appears to manufacture and sell stereolithograhic 3D printers that span the range from personal to production printers. Its personal product sells for less than what Formlabs states it intends to sell, though it is not possible on the given facts to determine if they are substitutes for one another.

While facts are sketchy at best, it does appear that 3D Systems has over the span of many years taken its products all the way from R&D to actual market sales and follow-on support. This is not at all characteristic of so-called “trolls” since 3D Systems is actually a manufacturer and seller of a wide variety of products. It seems to me it falls squarely within what are termed here as “innovators”.

Just my view, but the angst expressed here appears to be based upon a critical view of the patent system itself, which permits a patent holder to proceed against parties believed to be infringing one or more of the claims of a holder’s patent. Frankly, I am at a loss to explain why the alleged infringer limited its search to expired patents, when what it should have conducted was a search of patents currently in force, a so-called “infringement search”. After all, it is the latter that can create the potential for legal liability, while the former are interesting but irrelevant.

As to the claim against Kickstarter, it may prove viable, but actual facts have to be fleshed out via discovery in order to determine if this is the case.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Obviously you never “cleared” anything for use or you would know that it is time consuming, inexact and costly.

Only big companies have the man power and resources to do such thing, not start ups.

Further even big companies don’t do it, because doing so opens them to trebble damages because if they conducted a search on the valid patents and somehow they interpreted the wording wrong they would be trashed in court.

So no, nobody in their right minds would search for valid patents what they would and should do is search for expired patents to see exactly what they could use, valid patents are not useful for anybody trying to build something, the expired ones on the other hand show a path of things that are already “free” to use.

If you base your production on the expired patents, you have a better chance of beating any further claims from others trying to say you are infringing.

I am at a loss at how many people cannot see this simple fact, expired patents are not only free they serve as defense against others who try to stop someone from building something.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, it can be time consuming, inexact, and costly, but this need not be the case if you know what you are doing and able to scope out what you are looking for in advance of conducting such a search. If the lawyer guiding this process along lacks the tools for doing so, then your point is a fair statement. I have been called upon numerous times to oversee such projects, and in each instance they were easily within the reach of clients ranging from individuals of modest means to Fortune 50 companies.

The treble damages/wilfull worry is always a possibility if one likewise lacks the tools/experience to know how to perform such a project. When done properly such worries largely dissipate, and patentee allegations to the contrary are not well receive before the courts.

Once again, studying only expired patents in a fool’s errand since they pose no legal impediments. The role of a lawyer in not to identify non-problems, but rather to identify potential problems and then provide the inventor(s)/assignee(s) with a path forward to avoid such problems.

If your experience has been what is reflected in your comment, then let me suggest that you may want to consider changing your lawyer(s)…and quickly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Why should I even need a lawyer for this?

Also I would love to see your “affordable” report, I am betting that it only shows part but not all relevant patents, that would be impossible since there are millions of valid patents with fuzzy language making it hard if not impossible to pass the 50% certainty level, and you know that because I doubt you offer to cover the costs of wrong reports in case your clients get sued.

So lets be clear here, searching for patents are lawyers selling snake oil to people and they do it from $300 to millions.

There is no man power capable of researching millions of patents or the hundreds of thousands of fuzzy worded ones that enter the pool every year, so people are using software to do it and the software used is lacking.

Expresso from Emergent
IPriori IP Analytics Dashboard
Matheo Patent
Patent Dashboard
Patent iNSIGHT Pro
Patent Integration
Questel Analysis Module
SOPHIA’s Semantic Search Tool
STN AnaVist
Thomson Data Analyzer
Thomson Innovation
Treparel Information Solutions
IPVision Advantage

Those software can assist people to see the big picture not guarantee you won’t get sued because it missed something and all those people selling these type of service know that, is just disgusting how these people behave, they know exactly that they can’t guarantee anything, they know it doesn’t work and it is nowhere near working but they still pitch “patent analysis”, “commercial advantage”, “security” and more knowing full well they can’t deliver any of those things or else there wouldn’t be so much patents disputes today now would it? there wouldn’t be patent trolls would it?

Are you a snake oil salesman?

Because anybody saying they can conduct a comprehensive patent market analysis and identify all pitfalls is a liar specially if they are charging under 6 figures.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I take it you have dealt with snake oil salesmen. There are many out there, just like in any profession or trade.

And, yes, it is possible to significantly reduce potential liability without emptying your wallet. There is, of course, never 100% certainty in anything. The best that can be done is mitigate risk by having the work done professionally.

I note you mention a laundry list of databases used by many for searching. If this is all one uses, then in my experience it is even more likely that relevant documents will be missed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Significantly compared to what?
If you can’t know how many patents affects yours, how can one be able to measure the portion of the potential?

There may or may not be a substantial difference you just won’t be able to notice it, because you are not able to compare it to a true value that indicates the number you are trying to compare.

About the list well, that is what most do isn’t it?
They use automated analytical tools, not just databases to make sense of large amounts of data.

People get some data that will not reflect the whole situation only a partial point in time thatis acquired by automatic means, and hope the list is small enough to not have to work much, than they go about trying to remember what happened before and see if there was any trouble, but that is nowhere near certainty because there is not information enough and the information that is available is confusing to the point that can’t be automated making it fertile ground for charlatans and the like to operate.

This is bad not only for clients is specially bad for lawyers since some truly believe that software and past experiences can provide security, when all it does is point in some direction that may or may not be correct but nobody can be certain of it so people start getting ahead of themselves assuring others that that is correct well until things go south then they come up with all kinds of stories to justify the false/misguided assurances they gave before.

I guess it is a good thing that most people don’t understand and have no idea of how difficult it is to do those things that some claim they can do it for $300 dollars.

Governments with thousands of people as human resources and millions to expend can’t do it, so I very much doubt any law firm or lawyer would be able to do it, specially since I have a pretty good understanding of the cutting edge in data mining and it is not near good enough to ascertain validity or not of any individual piece of the data, is only good enough to show a big fuzzy picture of the situation, not to make comparison of individual points which is what some offer.

Now one has to wonder why people who claim to be able to see problems ahead cannot see the problems that could arise from trusting and making promises they can’t keep based on incomplete data.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

You appear to want certainty, but that is impossible in any field of endeavor. The most that can be hoped for is reducing risk to an acceptable level. In this regard the practice of law is no different from the practice of medicine or any other profession/trade. Anyone who may suggest differently is simply misleading a client/patient/purchasor/etc., and in the process does a grave injustice to them.

In the matter discussed in the above article, the party that is asserting a patent against the company is not one hiding in the bushes and hoping to spring a surprise. It appears to be a company well-known in the field of 3D printers, and would almost certainly have appeared in any search of unexpired patents.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

That is the point you can’t reduce that risk to “acceptable levels” because you can’t possibly see most of the field.

If you have millions of patents and you can only uncover a thousand you reduce the risk you didn’t eliminated and certainly you don’t know how much you reduce the risk, you therefore you can’t know if the risk is acceptable “mitigation of patent litigation risk”.

If law practice was no different from medical practice lawyers would have to be liable for their errors too, when is that going to happen?
Do patent lawyers that offer a service offer any guarantees that their work is sound?
No, why? Because most of them know they are misleading people, if they had to guarantee anything they would become more cautious about what they say, just like any company becomes when they are faced with ridiculous rules saying they need to search for patents to prove they didn’t infringe on something or didn’t want to.

Now about the company, which most probably should not have ever been granted a patent in a so obvious evolution of that system.

I would love to see if court arguments could be patented how would the justice system work?
Would every lawyer have to pay another lawyer because they hold the monopoly on successful arguments?

This is exactly why monopolies should be severely limited so they cause the less damaged possible, but we are not going in that direction are we?

We grant patents for everything nowadays and it doesn’t matter how ridiculous or obvious those things are, is like some people want to see the market lockdown.

Who granted a company a patent on the process of light painting?
What that company describes there is a way to paint areas selectively with light(electro-magnetic radiation), with the purpose to wait for a given area to reach the depth necessary for the laser to cure that place in the correct depth with an uniform energy/light/radiation source, another approach to that would be to vary the intensity of the energy beam so it wouldn’t need to wait, should I patent my variable intensity approach? which by the way theoretically is faster since it doesn’t need to wait to paint an area or return to it after.

That company is also known to aggressively go after others trying to corner the market, they sued a dozen other players over the years, so they are well known to be a hostile entity that shoots first and ask question later is that what we are going for it here?

Monopolists that want to eradicate competition by using brute force(the law) against anybody who dares to enter that market?

Not to mention the absurd claims the plaintiffs counsel made, even though I am well aware that this often happens in courts everywhere it never ceases to amaze me how far some will go, is like they don’t know what they are doing and throw everything on the wall to see what sticks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Lawyers who screw up to the detriment of their clients? We call that “malpractice”, and within the domain of patent law malpractice claims have experienced an uptick. For example, in Texas there is the case Gunn v. Minton, for which the Supreme Court has granted a petition for certiorari to consider the respective roles of the state and federal courts in such malpractice actions. Malpractice being an unquantifialble risk assumed by lawyers, “errors and omissions” insurance is the means by which risk is bounded.

A somewhat related type of insurance is available for patentees and potential infringers alike, and it too is for the purpose of bounding risk.

Your description of the patent being asserted is well off the mark. If you look at each claim you will note they are written in what is known as a “Jepsen” claim. The first part of each claim states the then known state of the prior art, and then each continues to specifically describe the improvement the claim reflects over the prior art. It is difficult to “hide” an invention when it is claimed in Jepsen format.

Let me ask a very basic question. Does anyone honestly believe that this new startup was completely unfamiliar with companies currently active in the field of 3D printing? Knowing who the competition is, it is not particularly difficult to search USPTO records to identify patents associated with each competitor.

It seems to me that your comments are in large measure merely a distraction in advance of stating your opinion that patents are the “devil incarnate”.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Knowing who the competition is, it is not particularly difficult to search USPTO records to identify patents associated with each competitor.

What about the treble damages issue though? If you are found to infringe later (and admit it, it’s difficult to be confident that you won’t), having done a patent search opens you up to charges of willful infringement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

Treble damages are optional, and it is a decision made by the judge. Moreover, over the past several years, starting with a case known as “Seagate” and continuing through a recent case known as “Bard”, the bar for a patentee being able to receive such damages has been raised ever higher and higher, to the point that wilfulness is generally reserved for particularly egregious cases of infringement. The same has also been done for other types of conduct almost invariably raised by patentees, such as, for example, allegations of fraud on the patent office during prosecution of a patent.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Malpractice is about to have its bar lowered.

Yes I do believe those people could not have not known about their competitors, they are from MIT where people focuses on the engineering problems to solve and have their own resources to look up, why would they care what the competition is doing?

Ever heard of Lasersaurus?
Another open source project that created a laser cutter, which also depends on turning on and off the light so it goes in the right place,

You really believe that people should be forced to expend time and money to look up if nobody has done anything similar that could or could not be used against them for every single project that they take in their lifes?

Imagine if Judges where forced to look up a database and expend money to search for opinions to see if his opinion was original or not, that would make his life difficult wouldn’t?

If we applied that nonsensical way of thinking to any other field it would make people angry everywhere and people ask why monopolies are not welcome anywhere.

We know as a society that monopolies are bad, we have extensive studies of past monopolies and their effects and still some believe that a form of monopoly that is not called a monopoly is ok?

Fortunately we don’t need the patent system to prosper or acquire knowledge and so we shouldn’t need to waste time and money trying to protect monopolists.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

It would be terrible and a major annoyance to conduct a title search before purchasing realty to see if someone else already owns it, or if someone else holds easements, their types, and their locations.

Yes, it would also be terrible to expect judges to look up court cases, and especially those that have established binding precedent, e.g., intermediate appellate courts and the Supreme Court.

I must agree that doing your homework before making a major financial commitment/investment is annoying and uproductive.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

Let me fix that for ya:


It would be terrible and a major annoyance to conduct a title search before purchasing realty to see if someone else already owns it and go back and say “to the best of my abilities nobody owns it, but if somebody owns it you are on your own”, or if someone else holds easements, their types, and their locations in this little database that is a mess and can’t be searched.

The difference is that those things can be searched, every single lot of terrain has one owner, the records are not fuzzy about it there are not multiple owners, there are no fuzzy language involved, there are no uncertainties there.


Yes, it would also be terrible to expect judges to look up court cases, and especially those that have established binding precedent, e.g., intermediate appellate courts and the Supreme Court, to see if what they are about to rule is unique and if it is not they should license the rulings of others judges paying for the ideas seth forth before them by others jurisprudence innovators and not leeching from the work of others.

I doubt judges would be inclined to pay for having to use the work of others for the legal system. What kind of jurisprudence would we have if every judge was forced to look up those things and have to pay for the use of those things?


I must agree that doing your homework before making a major financial commitment/investment is annoying and uproductive.

I agree if people get sued by simply trying to produce something and have major expenses even before they even have a product that is all good for commerce it incentive the creation of companies, entrepreneurs, which stimulate the creation of wealth and jobs 🙂
Further have ambiguous laws that make the field be covered by the veil of uncertainty is marvelous pro-economic stimulus.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

Just an aside, but my guess is that you are not involved to any significant extent in the sale of realty. If you were you would quickly realize the importance of having a Title Insurance policy because land records you do find during a title search are anything but the model of clarity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Re:

In 2006 the E.U. conducted a feasibility study for patent insurance schemes and found out that because of high risks involved any voluntary scheme would fail in the market, nobody would won’t to pay for the insurance because it would cost a lot of money, leaving the only option to create a mandate forcing people to get insurance,

So I am betting that if patent litigators start getting sued by their clients for malfeasance or even incompetence, they would have to add that cost to their “business model”.

After all they are the ones supposed to be the “experts” in that field and should know what could or could not happen, they are the ones that should bear the consequences of the bad laws, because they can’t keep passing that responsibility unto others forever, they should be responsible for their actions and choices.

That sounds familiar?
It is, I am applying the same logic some here are using to justify third party responsibility over things they have no control of.

If we live in an era where everyone should be responsible for everything, then surely every patent lawyers should also have to be hold under the same rules, meaning if you conduct a patent search and your client gets sued and incur significant costs, that lawyer should be responsible for it too and share the pain so others will be more diligent in their future work. Is that not how you think?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

If it is in Jepson format then they admit they used prior art.
Further is hard to see the “point of novelty” here.

It is not the selective painting, it is not the trigger for the new mask repaint, so what it is that is novel about turning on and off a light source at predetermined time/locations?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Further this mitigation patent scheme is about to go bad, the moment that everybody starts owning some piece of information or knowledge and you get sued the minute you try to produce anything despite researching the field just like the big boys get sued all the time people will start asking why lawyers are not more responsible for what they do and how they let those things happen, after all they paid the lawyer to tell them if it was safe or not, they want care if the lawyer believed or not, they will want his head, I am looking forward for the day to see a lot more lawyer on lawyer action specially since the internet shows people who before could go under the radar, but are now visible to everyone.

People should start suing lawyers and make them pay for false claims.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

The patent says it is for a method to delay irradiation of certain areas until they are the right depth.

Basically what that means is that a screen is painted and another and another, does that sounds familiar to you?

TV screens everywhere have been doing that for decades now.

What exactly is the innovation or invention in that?

The calculation of the depth of the material? because sure it is not the act of irradiating selectively a surface with energy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:


And, yes, it is possible to significantly reduce potential liability without emptying your wallet. There is, of course, never 100% certainty in anything. The best that can be done is mitigate risk by having the work done professionally.

And if you insist on that I will have to insist to see what guarantees you give your clients for the services you provide, because I want to see if you really trust your analyses enough to give assurances, real assurances that their costs will be covered if you are wrong.

You say it can be done than you can guarantee and stand behind those can’t you?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Also the function of a lawyer is in theory to safeguard the interest of his client, to do that he could identify everything single thing that could go wrong or he could simply thread a path that has already been threaded and it is known to be safe, hence searching for open pathways that are not incumbered by unknowns.

Why would anyone search only for problems and no solutions?

ldne says:

Re: Re:

Your post was interesting, but this conclusion:

As to the claim against Kickstarter, it may prove viable, but actual facts have to be fleshed out via discovery in order to determine if this is the case.

demonstrates a lack of understanding about how kickstarter works, they’re a platform that provides a service that allows people to solicit investors, not a marketplace, business monitor, or partner. The only thing they get out of it is a fee for the service provided, a communications platform. It’s like suing the phone company for what someone does with their telephone service.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I am familiar with how Kickstarter works. My comment is based upon the allegations contained in the complaint. Importantly, I am not saying that the complainant has a good case against Kickstarter, but only that the allegation of facts require more investigation to determine if they are meritorious.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The paper you cite is by Messrs. Boldrin and Levine. I well know I will be “blasted” for saying so, but having read their work over the past several years I have come to the position that they write their conclusions before examining facts and data. Perhaps they are well versed in economics, but the facts they tend to present, as well as their understanding of the law and history, is quite weak.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

you troll, history is a record of what was done, and it is full of situations where monopolists have used legally granted rights to harm and exploit others. economics is the study of the flow of value through society, and how this dynamic flow can be altered by various actions.
If we accept a goal that wealth should be destrubted across a broad middle class, with opportunity for individuals to improve themselves without having to resort to unethical behaviour, civil society needs to set laws that limit or prevent establishment of monopolies.
Economic theory(law) shows the granting of a monopoly is an excelent way to encourage the establishment of wealth and privlige for a few. and the concetration of a lot of tiny limited monopolies in the hand of a few greedy privliged few is like giving them the keys to a gold mine.
Law is a tool society uses to regulate the behaviour of its members, not the end in itself. If the only laws written are those that enhance the effects of earlier laws, that ignore the evidence of negative real world effects of previous laws. Society as a whole will suffer terribly, there are examples of this in history.

So troll don’t tell me that a law once written down is approprate forever, that it can never be altered, revoked, ammended as circumstances (and the legal framework for change) allow. if the answers provided by a field of learning indicate that a previous rule society has used is flawed, perhaps detrimental, that emperical evidence backs it up. arguing that law trumps reality is akin to bening king Canute connanding the tide not to come in.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve heard the same stories, which almost invariably means that the lawyers took little time, if any, to actually talk with the inventors during the preparation and prosecution of the applications. There are, however, many who categorically reject such a practice…and their clients are far better off because of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Apparently they are the minority, since you can research the patent office for years and never come across those today.

But the really problematic part on your statement is the fact that you acknowledge have heard of this problem before and try to mitigate it pointing out that are some(very few) that don’t do it.

That alone shows you are in favor of patents and see no problems with them or are willing to ignore the problems that you perceive with the system.

Tex Arcana (profile) says:

Re: Re:

While yer at it, sue the booze manufacturer for making booze intoxicating; sue car maker for making a car easy for drunks to drive; sue the bar for serving the booze; sue the police for not getting there quick enough to stop him driving; sue his wife for not stopping him from that one last drink; sue his kids for causing the stress that forced him to drink; sue his boss for being an asshole; sue Obama for obamacare and how it caused him stress forcing him to drink;…

Anonymous Coward says:


Food for thought

The enablers of infringement in patents are lawyers not others, they are the ones responsible for overseeing and assuring their clients don’t get on the wrong side of the law, and so they should be logical target for any enforcement in that area.

If patent lawyers want the responsibility of being the authoritative voice in the field they should also be the party responsible for anything bad that happens.

Anonymous Coward says:

Last year when Kraftwurx launched, we contacted all if the major 3D printing manufacturers and asked for lists of installed printers at companies offering their services as bureaus. All of them provided us the lists except 3D Systems. Today, has 110 3D printing shops tied to our system worldwide offering 70 materials, the most in any one location.

Our rationale…we want to provide the capacity to use 3D printing for making at a larger scale…no one company has enough resources to take large orders and no one material suits all needs.

We applaud all of the innovation occurring related to 3d printing.

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