Archive for the 'Patent' Category

Excitement About 3D Printing and Patents


Our project with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to make use of the preissuance submission process to limit the issuance of bad patents has met with widespread support from the 3D printing community and those who know how overly broad patents stifle innovation. After all, it’s hard to object to giving patent examiners relevant information as they decide whether or not to issue a patent that could change the shape of an industry!

As we expand our efforts to include mesh networking technologies, we hope that others will be inspired to make use of the preissuance submission process to improve patent quality in the technology areas they know best. You don’t need to be a lawyer, and you don’t need to pay any fee if you submit three or fewer references. In a future post, Cyberlaw Clinic attorney Kit Walsh will describe the lessons learned in the course of this effort, to help non-lawyers successfully navigate the preissuance submission process. Stay tuned!


Crowdsourcing Prior Art for 3D Printing

On Wednesday, January 23, 2013, the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society hand-delivered its first series of Third-Party Preissuance Submissions related to 3D printing technology with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Filing on behalf of our client, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Clinic is working to keep 3D printing technology accessible to the open hardware community by challenging patent applications that threaten to inhibit innovation in this rapidly expanding industry. EFF and the Clinic reached out to the 3D printing community to crowdsource prior art references for several pending patent applications.

The effort takes advantage of a new provision in the America Invents Act (35 U.S.C. §122(e)), which permits any third party to submit any printed publication of potential relevance to the USPTO for consideration by a patent examiner. The provision is intended to aid examiners by encouraging subject-matter experts to submit otherwise difficult-to-find prior art in new technological areas.

The Clinic filed preissuance submissions for two pending patent applications, 12/687,996 and 13/043,876, related to support structure generation and curable modeling material, respectively. Both include broad patent claims that, if allowed, may adversely affect the incremental innovation occurring now in the 3D printing community. The Clinic filed the submissions in person at the USPTO campus in Alexandria, VA.

The filing coincided with the USPTO’s first Additive Manufacturing Partnership Meeting. There, several industry participants, including Stratasys, 3D Systems, and Makerbot, met with patent examiners to discuss recent technological developments and industry trends. Supervisor Kit Walsh and student Charlie Stiernberg also attended to speak with Patent Office officials and members of the 3D printing community.

Call for 3D Printing Prior Art

Thanks to our students’ hard work this semester and the advice we received from the 3D printing community, we have identified several patent applications whose broad claims threaten to stifle open innovation. We are now asking the community to take a look at the applications and send us documentation showing that the technology described in those applications existed or was obvious before those applications were filed. For more details, consult the call for prior art at EFF’s website.

EFF and the Cyberlaw Clinic Team Up to Protect Open 3D Printing

We at the Cyberlaw Clinic are very excited to be partnering with EFF once again to take on overbroad patents. This time, we’re going after 3D printing patents, hoping to nip them in the bud by using a new procedure that allows us to intervene at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office before a patent is even issued.

Here’s how it works:

  1. With the help of the 3D printing community, we identify recently-published patent applications that are overly broad and likely to inhibit the crowd-based innovation that has made 3D printing accessible to ordinary people.
  2. Again with the help of the community, we identify prior art that will narrow or eliminate the claims that can be made by the patent applicants.
  3. We submit that prior art to the USPTO to assist their examiners in ensuring that undeserved patents do not issue, so that the open hardware community can continue to innovate amazing 3D printing technology.

The project launched yesterday with a blog post over at EFF, explaining the promise of 3D printing and some ways in which patenting has held it back. Please consult the project’s launch page to get in touch with us and let us know about applications that threaten open innovation in 3D printing.