3D printing and access to said printers have grown exponentially in the last year as the technology becomes more affordable for all. That being said, there are those who would rather restrict the technology for their own profit instead of making it open source. Now the EFF has joined the fight to keep 3D printing open and innovative.
As the EFF points out, many of the core patents regarding 3D printers have expired or will soon expire. This opens up the potential for a whole new wave of innovation in the 3D printing scene from independent engineers and others. The only problem is that there are those who would file or extend patents in 3D printing to keep this technology out of the hands of the open hardware community, and the EFF says that's no good.
So what are they going to do about it? They're asking for the community's help in identifying new patents that threaten the open nature of 3D printing. They're doing this through the America Invents Act, a new law that lets regular folks submit prior art to patent examiners. The EFF and the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society will use these prior art submissions to challenge 3D printer patent applications that threaten the future of the technology.
Patents can be used for good, but they are increasingly being used to stifle creativity and innovation. 3D printing is one technology that does not need this as most of the major innovations in the field over the last few years have come from the open hardware community. Overzealous patent litigation could only hamper innovation in a field that is just starting to realize its utmost potential.