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Questionable Patents From MakerBot 56

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-should-play-nice-with-others dept.
An anonymous reader writes "OpenBeam USA is a Kickstarted company that builds open source aluminum construction systems (think high-quality erector sets). One of the main uses for the systems is building 3D printers, and creator Terence Tam is heavily involved in the 3D-printing community. He's now put up a blog post about some disturbing patents filed by MakerBot. In particular, he notes a patent for auto-leveling on a 3D printer. Not only is this an important upcoming technology for 3D printers, the restriction of which would be a huge blow to progress, it seems the patent was filed just a few short weeks after Steve Graber posted a video demonstrating such auto-leveling. There had also been a Kickstarter campaign for similar tech a few months earlier. Tam gives this warning: 'Considering the Stratasys — Afinia lawsuit, and the fact that Makerbot is now a subsidiary of Stratasys, it's not a stretch to imagine Makerbot coming after other open source 3D manufacturers that threaten their sales. After all, nobody acquires a patent warchest just to invite their competitors to sit around the campfire to sing Kumbaya. It is therefore vitally important that community developed improvements do not fall under Makerbot's (or any other company's) patent portfolio to be used at a later date to clobber the little guys.'"
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Questionable Patents From MakerBot

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  • by NoKaOi (1415755) on Friday May 23, 2014 @06:33PM (#47079405)

    It's only "first to file" if the other party is seeking a patent on it too. Prior art means it's not patentable by anybody if Makerbot was first to file but there was prior art. Also remember that if they filed a provisional patent application, then that is their filing date, so any art shown after that is not prior art (I have no idea if that's the case here). Additionally, the filing date of the patent was 10/29/2013 (even though the publication date was a couple days ago). So if the prior art was shown after that (conceivably as early as 10/29/2012 depending on if there was a PPA and its filing date) then it doesn't count as prior art. It could be argued for obviousness if a bunch of others came up with it independently, but that generally comes down to who has the biggest legal budget.

    I actually read the patent claims (not the detailed description or TFA, however). What's different about the patent and what's been in use for a while is that the sensor is triggered by a force on the "tip of the extruder" rather than sensors mounted to carriage. Normally in 3D printer terminology, extruder != hot end, but the diagrams and their description shows that they consider the hot end nozzle the "extruder tip."

  • From the article:

    So I quickly checked the publication date, and recalled that Steve Graber, whose work we have been basing off of on the FSR auto levelling for the Kossel / Kossel Pro, had published a video of his setup last year:
    https://plus.google.com/110997... [google.com]
    Sure enough, the patent was filed 20+ days after Steve Graber had published his video demostrating probeless auto-levelling.

    Steve Graber's video is dated October 6, 2013. The patent application was filed October 29, 2013. That sure is damning... but wait, what's this in the very first line of the application?

    RELATED APPLICATIONS
    This application claims the benefit of U.S. Pat. App. 61/719,874, filed Oct. 29, 2012, the entirety of which is incorporated by reference herein.

    This is a non-provisional application of a provisional patent application that was filed a year earlier, well before Graber's video. His video may be "art", but it's not "prior".

    This is not to say that (i) the patent application is valid and should be granted; or (ii) that MakerBot is above reproach, or anything else about it... but just that the article author seems to have gone off half-cocked.

  • by MoFoQ (584566) on Friday May 23, 2014 @07:16PM (#47079803)

    According to the exchange on stackexchange.com referenced in the article, apparently you can submit up to 3 free. Beyond that, there's a fee.

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