EFF Vs Patent
Patents have been the lifeblood for protecting intellectual property for centuries, without them innovation would be stifled; the big guys would simply be able to steal the little guys’ ideas and drive them out of business. “Patents protect the features and processes that make things work. This lets inventors profit from their inventions.” Says the Intellectual Property Office Uk.
Unfortunately though that's not always the case. The patent system is flawed, and there are countless "patent trolls" who file a patent without ever having the intention of making the product, simply to stop others from profiting. This stifles innovation as much as not having patents in the first place. Essentially it seems we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place with patent law.
Of course in the 3D printing sphere we’ve had a couple of very famous patent based lawsuits, the most eye-catching of which is the battle of FormLabs vs 3D Systems. Recently Wired ran an excellent feature on the ten patents they felt were repressing innovation in the field of 3D printing, so what is being done about it?
The Electric Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Ask Patents have teamed up to try to change the way patents are granted, specifically in the area of 3D printing:
The project to challenge patent applications covering 3D printing technology is important not just because of the promise of that technology, but because we’re relying on a fairly new legal procedure called Preissuance Submissions. That procedure allows third parties to participate in the patent application process by providing patent examiners with prior art.1 As we’ve said before, we’re glad to see the Patent Office open up the process to those who might not be filing patents themselves, but who are affected by the patent system everyday.
Askpatents.com applies the same principles of crowdsourcing websites to allow members of the public to question any patent application they’ve seen that smells a bit fishy. EFF have kicked off the debate with three patents from massive companies, that they don’t think quite add up:
- Stratasys’ "Ribbon Filament and Assembly for Use in Extrusion-based Digital Manufacturing Systems"
- Panasonic’s "Process for Producing Three-dimensionally Shaped Object and Device for Producing Same"
- Stratasys’ "Additive Manufacturing System and Method for Printing Customized Chocolate Confections"
Check them out and let us know what you think.