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Hardware Hacking Patents Printer Build Hardware Technology

The Patents That Threaten 3-D Printing 134

Posted by Soulskill
from the system-and-method-for-existing-in-three-dimensions dept.
An anonymous reader writes "We've watched patents slow down the smartphone and tablet markets. We've seen patent claims thrown against Linux, Android, and countless other software projects. Now, as 3-D printing becomes more capable and more affordable, it seems a number of patents threaten to do the same to the hobbyist and tinkerer crowd. Wired has highlighted some of the most dangerous ones, including: a patent on soluble print materials that support a structure while it's being printed; a ridiculously broad patent on distributed rapid prototyping, which could affect "every 3-D printing service that has launched in the past few years"; and an 18-year-old patent on 3-D printing using a powder and a binding material, held by MIT."
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The Patents That Threaten 3-D Printing

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @06:14AM (#42954079)

    This comes up every now and then, and it honestly looks like the majority of 3d printing patents are legitimate, original inventions that the owners created.

    Take the "soluble print materials that support a structure whie it's being printed"; that's genius, I would never have come up with that.

    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @07:38AM (#42954403)
      In the manufacture of Diesel engine pistons, which are cast, a soluble ring of high melting point salts has long been used to form the internal oil gallery. And I am sure that this technique did not originate with pistons. The problem is that the patent office now allows inventions to be "something A which already exists + something B which already exists", without any actual inventive step.

      As an example, I am a little sorry for Trevor Bayliss who never really made any money out of his wind up radio, but given hand cranked magneto telephones had been around for many years, the idea of a hand cranked magneto radio set really should not be patentable. It is just another communications device with a hand charger.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Dr_Barnowl (709838)

        His real breakthrough was the constant-force spring mechanism for the clockwork. Which was genuinely innovative, but became obsolete, because it replaced the impractical "dynamos charging crap batteries" approach, and then it was replaced in turn by the practical "dynamo charging good batteries". Because a dynamo charging batteries is obviously not novel, this approach probably shouldn't be patentable (although possibly someone has a patent for "dynamo charging batteries, only with batteries that aren't cra

      • by samkass (174571) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @10:20AM (#42955127) Homepage Journal

        In the manufacture of Diesel engine pistons, which are cast, a soluble ring of high melting point salts has long been used to form the internal oil gallery. And I am sure that this technique did not originate with pistons. The problem is that the patent office now allows inventions to be "something A which already exists + something B which already exists", without any actual inventive step.

        As an example, I am a little sorry for Trevor Bayliss who never really made any money out of his wind up radio, but given hand cranked magneto telephones had been around for many years, the idea of a hand cranked magneto radio set really should not be patentable. It is just another communications device with a hand charger.

        In that case it's solving a different problem. The problem with 3D printing is that in most methods it's put down layer by layer. Thus, any "stalactites" are impossible to build without putting a support under them. There are a variety of ways to solve this; they are using a particular dissolvable-yet-printable material to solve it. Would it be immediately obvious to you which material to pick that can be deposited by a 3D printer and be structurally sound yet dissolved away?

        There is a lot of solid invention that's been done over the last dozen years in the field. Ever seen InvisAlign, the invisible plastic braces? They've done all their molds with 3D Systems' stereolithography machines since 1999 and also have a bunch of patents on 3D printing mass-production/mass-customization. They spent millions developing ways to produce tens of thousands of unique, precise pieces of plastic a day, and have had issues with competitors trying to cut out all the R&D costs and undersell them.

        • Would it be immediately obvious to you which material to pick that can be deposited by a 3D printer and be structurally sound yet dissolved away?

          Then why isn't the patent for that material, instead of the concept of soluble material?

          • You can't usually make a patent critically hinge on just using a different material, the patent office won't usually give you a patent on that; they normally want a bit more than that.

    • by durrr (1316311)

      Lost-wax casting have been around for ~5000 years. The reason why you wouldn't come up with the idea is that you're not a manufacturer and know nothing about manufacturing, whereas for those that know their shit it's nothing particularly new or fancy.

      • by ajlitt (19055)

        Lost wax casting involves support structures that melt, evaporate, or burn at a lower temperature than the surrounding mold. This patent covers supports that can be removed by submerging in a solvent.

    • This comes up every now and then, and it honestly looks like the majority of 3d printing patents are legitimate, original inventions that the owners created.

      Take the "soluble print materials that support a structure whie it's being printed"; that's genius, I would never have come up with that.

      I've got an idea! Why not make a wax support structure and MELT it! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost-wax_casting)

      • by Anonymous Coward

        This comes up every now and then, and it honestly looks like the majority of 3d printing patents are legitimate, original inventions that the owners created.

        Take the "soluble print materials that support a structure whie it's being printed"; that's genius, I would never have come up with that.

        I've got an idea! Why not make a wax support structure and MELT it! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost-wax_casting)

        USING A COMPUTER!

    • by devjoe (88696) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @10:41AM (#42955305)

      This comes up every now and then, and it honestly looks like the majority of 3d printing patents are legitimate, original inventions that the owners created.

      Take the "soluble print materials that support a structure whie it's being printed"; that's genius, I would never have come up with that.

      I agree that the soluble print materials one is quite likely valid, a patent on an ingenious choice of materials that makes 3-D printing possible. This is an innovative field, and this patent is old enough to possibly be able to legitimately claim to have invented this idea and not be invalidated by prior art.

      However, the patent linked in the summary on distributed rapid prototyping does not appear to have been granted, only filed (almost 6 years ago), and no doubt is having some trouble getting accepted due to broadness, prior art, and other considerations. This patent does not even appear to cover any specific 3-D printing method, but just the general process of setting up a service to produce 3-D models, and as such, should be invalidated due to being an obvious adaptation of services for conventional (2-D) printing into a new market for 3-D printing given the availability of 3-D printers.

      The MIT patent is expired. It is more than 17 years since issue and more than 20 years since filing. The article says this one is "on the brink of expiration" so I assume it was written sometime last year when the patent was still valid. But it was very likely valid until it expired, and another innovation that helped establish the field.

      The article contains some other possibly valid patents, e.g., the smoothing one (if there is not prior art), the temperature control one from 2004, and possibly the filament coil one if their methods for keeping the filament feed smooth and/or automatically switching spools are really original. The summary just chose (2 out of 3) bad examples out of the article which stretched a bit to make a "top 10" list.

      • by MickLinux (579158)

        Maybe, maybe not. I've heard it said that a good patent lawyer will keep a patent in the application process for as long as possible, because the patent doesn't start until it is granted, and meanwhile the fact that it has been applied for still stifles competition.

        Another quote from the same source (though not necessarily originating from him): A patent is a gun that costs $10k to buy, and $100k to shoot.

    • I did think up something like that, but my idea was for it to be able to break apart into a powder afterwards.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    An intricate bureaucracy put in place to ensure that the invention and commercial realization of an idea shall be no less than twenty years apart.

    Well, at least the MIT one is about to expire.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The same people that say patents are necessary seems to be like the same people who would argue that 1 or 2% increase in their taxes would cause them to stop working. Does anyone take this seriously?

    I can see it perhaps in a few industries like the pharmaceutical industry but not for the last majority of fields.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      They're not about helping the world. They're about protecting the rights of inventors, rather than having large companies steal their work and reproduce it in a manner they can't compete with.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @06:35AM (#42954161)

        "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

        • "why bother doing it if someone will steal your work"

          • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @09:20AM (#42954761)

            "Oh shit, a large company will just steal it anyway and use their huge legal fund to squash me into the dirt. I guess I'd better just go french kiss a shotgun."

            This is probably among the reasons why software has seen so much more innovation from little guys than physical engineering has recently, and not just any software, software as a service (e.g. social networks, search engines). What really matters in that space is getting into the market early and impressing people. The serious R&D in that space is mostly about scaling the service and not producing a product - so you CAN keep it a trade secret, because it's stuck behind your firewall and not in the hands of your competitors for a few dollars.

          • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @10:34AM (#42955253)

            "why bother doing it if someone will steal your work"

            The history of the IT field pretty much disproves that. Everyone borrowed from everyone else, and most developers never even bothered to file for patents. Would it really have been better for the IT industry if no one except Dan Bricklin had been able to produce a spreadsheet program until 1999?

      • by shentino (1139071) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @06:39AM (#42954179)

        That would be better than the present state of affairs where patents are used to force monopolies on the market and the small inventors get screwed over anyway by getting bullied out of the courtroom with superior legal budgets.

        The small guy will get fucked over anyway, may as well make it so that the big evil corporations don't get all the windfall.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Bullshit. They're about protecting the rights of large companies, rather than having inventors steal their work and reproduce it in a manner they can't compete with.

      • by MtHuurne (602934)

        What rights would that be? The patents themselves are the rights...

      • by ikaruga (2725453) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @07:12AM (#42954295)
        Back in the late 19th/early 20th century patents still made some sense as most devices were pretty much single purpose. But nowadays, when the trend is to make everything do everything and there is this fusion of all types of technologies going on, this classical patent system is completely inappropriate. Depending on the field you're working, it's an inhuman task to even keep track of all patents you're infringing.
        The physical/chemical 3D print methods mentioned in the article are just the tip of the iceberg. If you start nitpicking, I wouldn't be surprised by the potential huge number of both software/firmware and electromechanical/mechatronics/robotics hardware patents they break.
        The worst thing is that 3d printers are just highly specialized robots. Imagine in a few years when semi-general purpose robots start becoming common appliances, as healthcare, entertainment, maintenance or security tools. Robotics is known as the field of engineering that joins all other fields and because of that, even a basic cleaning robot will infringe pretty much every type of patent in the world. I think like the moment robot companies like iRobot or Cyberdyne release a killer consumer product they will pretty much be sued in oblivion by all other companies.
        • by mrbester (200927) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @07:29AM (#42954373) Homepage

          Cyberdyne are due to make a consumer killer product real soon now...

        • That nobody has a general-purpose robot that can do housework is prima facie evidence such does not exist.

          Yet if a genius were to produce one, a thousand patent scammers would crawl out of the woodwork. Nevermind that it's all in the software and the rest is just 80 year old animatronic-style hardware.

          Then after that round of lawyers will come the slip-and-fall ambulance chasers. I can't imagine such a product surviving without a good black box that also records humans around it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        They were invented to protect the rights of the inventors. But were legislated to promote innovation and economic growth.

        With companies holding their money offshore, outsourcing production and suing into submission their competition or anyone contesting their right to use those inventions, I'd say patents law failed on all fronts.

        A month ago, there was an interesting story, about a pharma corp with wonder drug and expiring patent. Funny thing, the drug is so complex, even with the competition knowing how to

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by famebait (450028)

        Wrong.
        There is no such thing as a natural ownership of any kind of knowledge.

        Patents and other intellectual rights are articifical limitations on personal freedom, devised and enforced by societies in order to acheive specififc aims. From the start of patents and until this day, "to promote progress" is the rhetoric used in order to justify the otherwise draconian measure of punishing people for using what they know.

        It is not obvious that this tradeoff is a good one for all times and all societies. Simila

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          There is no such thing as a natural ownership of any kind of knowledge.

          Also wrong. You can "own" knowledge without owning it exclusively. I own knowledge on how to operate my DVD player, for example - something others in this household never bothered to acquire. The patent system was designed so that people could make their exclusive knowledge patently known without losing the benefit of keeping it secret. One reason why a patent is supposed to be on knowledge that's not obvious or commonly (patently) known (and therefore not exclusive).

          Most people think it's a good idea to be

          • I think where the whole concept went sour was right about at "original idea". There is no such thing as an original idea - all ideas have been influenced by the ideas of others, even when it is subconscious; and everything has been thought of before, just not necessarily patented.

            Knowledge does not have to be patented to be profitable/used for personal gain. For example, I have the knowledge of how to do several crafts. I sell the products of that knowledge on Etsy. Anyone else in the world can acquire t
            • I think where the whole concept went sour was right about at "original idea". There is no such thing as an original idea - all ideas have been influenced by the ideas of others, even when it is subconscious; and everything has been thought of before, just not necessarily patented.

              That sort of depends on how original you need an "original idea" to be. Sir Isaac Newton after all, noted that whatever insight he had came from building on the insights of those who came before, but he still gets credit for his own researches done done on top of that. I'm aware of the Jeremiad that there's nothing new under the sun, but he was a sour old coot. It may not be new somewhere in a galaxy far away, but we tend towards the local view for the most part.

              Patent protection's most famous benefit was i

      • And yet they are being stolen anyway, and the small inventor still can't compete because the large company can afford better lawyers.

      • Where the hell did you get THAT idea [yonkershistory.org]?!

      • by vettemph (540399)

        You mean protecting the rights of assignee's. most inventors are poor/employed and can't afford patents. Inventors get stepped on by companies and venture capitalist. Only the wealthy benefit from patents.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    An 18-year-old patent is "news"?

    Blah blah blah patents bad blah blah blah. What do people come here for, information, or confirmation bias?

    • We all come here for the less than occasional genius-level nugget of wisdom... oh8, and because it impresses the chicks.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @06:33AM (#42954151)

    The wired article also admits as much (before drumming up the hysteria).

    If you dig into PAIR on the broad patent for all 3D printing done over the web, for example (http://portal.uspto.gov/pair/PublicPair, search for application 11/818,521 and go to "image file wrapper) the examiner and prospective patenter are engaged in a pretty intense fight over the obviousness of the application.

    • by notaspy (457709)

      Excellent point. The "ridiculously broad patent" referred to in the summary is not a patent at all, but is the '521 application you describe.

      A patent application is not a patent, even though it hopes to be some day.

  • Not all that bad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by _Ludwig (86077) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @06:44AM (#42954193) Journal

    The distributed rapid prototyping one is absurdly broad and pretty obvious, but it's worth noting that it is still pending. The soluble materials one covers specific formulations, not the general concept of a "lost armature." Makerbot, on the other hand, appears to have successfully patented the conveyor belt.

    • by BillX (307153)

      I thought you were joking until I RTFA. I don't know about you, but I can't possibly think of any device for converting a computer file to a tangible work product that uses rollers to clear its work product from the work area to make room for subsequent work product. Certainly no such analogous device exists, or else 3D printers wouldn't have such a clever and unique name.

      While I am here, to forestall successful patent attempts on other obvious means of clearing work product from a work area, I hereby discl

  • by fantomas (94850) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @06:49AM (#42954217)

    Lawyers do seem to be crushing innovation in the USA. Do you think it's possible that innovation and the world's lead in technical developments will shift to places where inventors/creators/small start ups are less inhibited by patent /copyright etc laws, and new products get pushed out without so much risk of being crushed by established old organisations? I'm wondering if places where legal frameworks aren't so closely adhered to will take the lead in the near future and be tolerated by their national governments as a way of increasing their share of the world economy?

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
      No, because China only copies others. A slowdown in Western innovation due to patents will not result in relocation. There just won't be much innovation.
      • by fantomas (94850) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @07:26AM (#42954359)

        "No, because China only copies others..... There just won't be much innovation."

        Wasn't this the claim made about Japan in USA and Europe in the 1950s and 1960s? that they just produced inferior copies of Western goods and competed by selling poorer quality copies at cheaper prices? e.g. in the camera and automotive industries?

        The counter argument was that they learnt production methods and began to understand the desires of the USA/European market and then went on to improve quality and offer innovations, while Western companies were complacent and said "we know what our people want, we'll continue to make the same kind of autos / cameras etc.". I'd be interested in opinions from Detroit for example ("Motor City").

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          China is already innovating and developing on its own, anyone still claiming otherwise is wrong. A article on slashdot was about chinees researching finding something interesting a while back. Completely forgot what it was about though.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            "chinees researching finding something interesting a while back. Completely forgot what it was about though."

            You should have. It was a memory and spelling device.

        • by malkavian (9512) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @07:59AM (#42954465) Homepage

          That was exactly what was said of the US about a century or so ago. It was notorious for not following copyright, or any other form of IP protection, and spawned many a copy of works. Then when it had become established and used its own internal knowledge to create new variants, it used foreign legal systems to prevent the idea being used there, and thus stay ahead.
          It worked for the US. It worked for Japan. It's a proven strategy that'll work for China too.. Last time I was there, I saw what looked like a sizeable town being built in the rural backroads.. I was informed it was a new university campus being built, and that it was far from the only one.
          China understands that the way to growth and development is education and work combined. They're slowly insourcing all the key components to let it succeed. When they have the R&D, the specialists and the production all done locally, that's when the MBAs will suddenly wake up and realise that the really simple thing to insource is the management.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Good grief, do you even know what the word "only" means?

        A correct usage of the term is: You only know about China from reading about how they've copied others.

        But how much American innovation is in fact done by Chinese immigrants?

        When one thing changes, other things change. China has about four times the capacity to innovate than the US does. It just finds it more profitable to perform that innovation in the US. For now.

    • Judging by the teams of US "Ambassadors" being sent into Europe and I assume into Asia too all that may change.

    • Starting out, the US ripped-off quite a bit of IP and tech from Jolly Old, all of it justified by the Revolutionary War thing.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Lawyers do seem to be crushing innovation in the USA. Do you think it's possible that innovation and the world's lead in technical developments will shift to places where inventors/creators/small start ups are less inhibited by patent /copyright etc laws, and new products get pushed out without so much risk of being crushed by established old organisations?

      No, because the USA would simply apply massive diplomatic and economic pressure to force those countries to bring their IP laws in line with those of Ame

    • It would certainly be a fascinating element of a new city state. I imagine many brilliant minds would want to live and work in a patent free system where they have access to all technologies and the work they do was broadly shared.

      3D printing hugely benefits this as having a more nodular, simple manufacturing, sales and production base would seem to fix one of the larger problems faced by more socialist governments in the past.

      This is obviously examined in Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age (I'd love some oth
  • Can you patent a natural process? Swifts have been 3D printing for millennia (birds nest (soup)). Ditto Snails (shells), Bees (hives). Prior Art is all around us.
    • by famebait (450028)

      They don't build machines to do it.
      You could build stuff that way yourself too, manually using a hot glue gun or an icing bag or whatever (I won't get into the more literal or imaginative emulations) and it would probably not be patentable, and certainly not covered by current 3D printing patents.

    • That's cute. Companies have been patenting genes for a while now, ones found in the wild without any modification by the company. If that doesn't count as prior art, I don't see how nests or hives would.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Patents are only applicable if you intend to commercialize the machine/invention. i.e. they regulate business only.
    For other purposes patents are free to use. You can build literally every invention in the patent office without permission.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      True. E.g. in the UK, PA77 Section 60(5)a:

      (5) An act which, apart from this subsection, would constitute an infringement of a patent for an invention shall not do so if -
              (a) it is done privately and for purposes which are not commercial;

      http://ukpatents.wikispaces.com/Section+60

    • by Pale Dot (2813911)
      Wasn't there a story recently about some gene patent? The owner of the patent if I remember correctly was suing a nonprofit. Besides if a company decides to give away a product, wouldn't that qualify as commercial already?
      • by dkf (304284)

        The owner of the patent if I remember correctly was suing a nonprofit.

        "Nonprofit" just refers to what happens to the profits and how ownership is arranged, not to the sort of business that is being conducted.

  • by Kilo Kilo (2837521) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @07:51AM (#42954449)
    Having just submitted my first provisional patent, one for an actual, physical device, these patents for "vague ideas of doing something" look more and more absurd every day. If you don't know how to do something, then you really haven't invented anything. I've got this idea of a car that runs on rainbows and happy thoughts. Here's a poorly drawn picture of a rainbow and a smiling person sitting in the car and the car is moving.
  • Is "with 3d printing" the next "on the internet?"
    Like, can I get a patent for making a plastic spoon "with 3d printing?"

    If I want a REALLY strong patent, I can have people design their personalized spoon "on the internet" which is then automatically made "with 3d printing."

    My patent will be double-protected and bullet-proof!

    • by chrismcb (983081)
      If the "on the X" portion of the patent is new and novel, then it should be allowed. But if it is done pretty much the same way as before, then no it shouldn't. In this case, one of the patents has to do with the 3D printing process itself. (As I understand it, it is basically patenting the ink process) But the rabid prototyping one seems to be "do X in the cloud" (There is even a picture of a cloud)
  • uhm.... pretty sure patents have a time limit...

  • by Slugster (635830) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @08:51AM (#42954629)
    I recall reading that bulldozer wheels were rebuilt by wire-welding at least as far back as the 1960's.

    As a (steel-track) bulldozer gets used, the dirt between the wheels and tracks causes the wheels to wear down and decrease in diameter. To fix the problem, there are automatic machines that slowly rotate the wheel while running a wire-feed welder back and forth across the worn-down surface. When the wheel's outer diameter has reached a point where it is slightly larger than necessary, the wheel is removed and machined back down to the proper diameter again.

    Seems a hassle but apparently it is a lot cheaper than making a whole new wheel.
  • We've watched patents slow down the smartphone and tablet markets.

    Wrong. part of the problem is that we haven't. We have seen an endless stream of stupid patents, huge lawsuits (apple v samsung), and still we buy and the market continues apace.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:World_Wide_Smartphone_Sales_Share.png [wikipedia.org]
    http://www.lessonspace.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Untitled.jpg [lessonspace.org]
    http://www.digitaltrends.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/pc-sales-cannibalized-by-tablets-chart-bill-shopes-goldman-sachs-2010.jpg [digitaltrends.com]

    There is no government pressure to stop, and no market pre

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You personally haven't seen it, no. I've been in the smart phone game a long time (and hold many stupid patents - it wasn't my decision to file them) and patents certainly do slow innovation. You would probably be shocked to see what actually happens behind closed doors.

      The reality of the situation is depressing. Sadly, I can so no more publicly.

      • by wbr1 (2538558)
        My point was they may slow down innovation, but not the markets. It is the markets that drive companies so without market or government pressure the status quo remains.
  • Patents should work like trademarks: Use them or lose them. These sneak attacks long after the fact suck.
    • by samkass (174571)

      Patents should work like trademarks: Use them or lose them. These sneak attacks long after the fact suck.

      Well, 3D Systems has been in the 3D printing equipment business since the 90's, and is one of the biggest innovators of the technology. So I'm not sure I see your point.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      they are used.. 3d systems uses them all the time and this is why some cheapos are missing very obvious improvements.

  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @09:11AM (#42954717)
    The problem is companies are more and more using broad range patents to control whole industries. That is NOT how patents are meant to be used. I don't want to see a limiting so much as a modification and redirection. Notice many of these patents are from the 90s and even 80s or before. Some of them are not based on a product so much as an antiscipation of a need to they file an offensive/defensive patent then they wait until alot of major companies are using the process and rack up big profits then they sue. Two simple cures, if they really do have a product give them three years to develop it so most of these troll patents would have expired. I'm talking patents on methods and other broad range patents like gestures and such. Also force them to file within 12 months of a competing product being release. That would kill off these massive lawsuits for 5 to 10 years of infringement before they even filed. Better yet force them to file a cease and desist and give the company 6 to 12 months to stop infringing then if the company fails to comply they can sue to day one. I'm guessing the vast majority of companies had no idea they were infringing and most would make the needed changes to avoid the lawsuit. The current system encourages greed by allowing the patent holder to wait years before filing against a company. This actually prevents the company from stopping the infringement since they aren't made aware of the problem. The system doesn't need to be scrapped it needs to be fixed and reasonable rules and limitations brought in.
    • The current system encourages greed by allowing the patent holder to wait years before filing against a company. This actually prevents the company from stopping the infringement since they aren't made aware of the problem. The system doesn't need to be scrapped it needs to be fixed and reasonable rules and limitations brought in.

      The current system has already fixed this. It's called the Laches doctrine [wikipedia.org]. You can't sit, knowing that there's an infringer, and wait for years before every contacting them or filing suit, or else equity will prevent you from going after them.
      The other part of this, submarine patents, were done away with in an amendment in 2000 that requires all applications to be published, and expire 20 years from the priority date. No more filing secret continuations for decades to stretch out a 17-year-from-grant term

    • by MickLinux (579158)

      The problem is companies are more and more using broad range patents to control whole industries. That is NOT how patents are meant to be used.

      From Wikipedia, the "History of Patent Law",

      England

      In England the Crown issued letters patent providing any person with a monopoly to produce particular goods or provide particular services. Apart from the grant to John Kempe and his company mentioned above[4] an early example of such letters patent was a grant by Henry VI in 1449 to John of Utynam, a Flemish man, f

    • by pepty (1976012)

      Notice many of these patents are from the 90s and even 80s or before.

      Patent claims expire after 20 years with few exceptions.

      if they do have a product give them three years to develop it so most of these troll patents would have expired. I'm talking patents on methods and other broad range patents like gestures and such.

      So if you invent something you have to get it into a product on the market within three years or you lose the patent? What if you don't have the rights to the rest of the widget your invention applies to? Also, who defines what is or isn't a broad range patent? It seems like a definition that is made by popularity in the marketplace, probably years and years after the patent was filed.

      Also force them to file within 12 months of a competing product being release. That would kill off these massive lawsuits for 5 to 10 years of infringement before they even filed.

      What if it takes more than a year for you to find out that your inve

  • by L. J. Beauregard (111334) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @09:26AM (#42954797)

    It's been both 20 years from filing and 17 years from grant.

  • I think were at a point of evolution where we need to ask why we have patents in the first place. At one point the patent was a protection "device" that gave a certain level of safety to a product. Now the patent seems to be more of a weapon in the court room used to stall progress and strangle inventions. So saying that gets me to my final point, why do we still have patents, why can't we just be inventive, creative and free to design, built and use what we want in a knowledge sharing environment. I wo
  • a patent on soluble print materials - license it or come up with a different technique (using different chemicals for example) if you want to do that.

    distributed rapid prototyping - don't use a web server. The diagnostics over a network interface is harder to work around. This does seem rather broad and non-inventive...

    printing using a powder and a binding material - wait for it to expire. That shouldn't be hard since you only have to wait until 2012.

  • The patent office is populated by idiots. Tech patents are almost always overly broad, ignore prior art, obvious, etc. We...get...it. So how long will we continue to be subjected to the interminable stream of stories and the even more predictable stream of comments?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Patents are in place to protect the original inventors and owners of said patent. THIS IS WHAT THEY ARE THERE FOR

    But anytime something is threatened by a patent already in place that is being wholely or in portion by someone else later you guys throw a fit and rant and rave if the patent threatens something you are interested in or if the patent protects some big company.

    Regardless of what it is if someone violates a patent then they should be held responsible regardless if it interefeares with something or

    • Patents are in place to protect the original inventors and owners of said patent. THIS IS WHAT THEY ARE THERE FOR

      Bullshit [yonkershistory.org]! Who's modding this crap up?

  • I have a 4D printer. Its very slow.

    Let's see your patent for that, smarty-pants.

  • It's hard to take an article seriously when it quotes an expired patent as being a threat to technology development.

    In fact the MIT patent is a boon because it outlines a technology that is now free for anyone to practice.

  • They should have reasonable length. Coming up with an idea doesn't forbid others to come up with same one, and tendency of that happening increases with appropriate developments. Thus many genius methods become a self-evident norm, not only because we have (if we do) an example. Patents should become obsolete under certain conditions, like current topic ("everyone" does 3d printing these days, and such ideas doesn't require being a costly educated specialist anymore) and their huge lifetime is obsolete lon
  • Even if there were to be lawsuits to stop commercial production of 3D printing tech, there's already 3D printers out there. And as the tech first started to be utilized by private citizens there were more than one project out there to help spread the tech to more and more people. You would purchase the parts to build a printer, and the first thing you'd print were the parts for another printer...

    Take that paradigm and expand on it to today's much more robust tech, and you cant stop the growth. No patent
  • I think it's about time I cash in on that "fashioning materials into tangible items" patent I purchased from The Dutch East India Company.
  • Everybody knows patents are good for... Awkward. Can't remember.

  • One could build something that way using flour, an egg & milk or water concoction, and a paint brush. You can bake it to assist in bonding & solidification.

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