The Electronic Frontier Foundation recently sent out a call to arms for help in identifying patents that could threaten continued innovation in the field. Through this, the group found a number of patents that could very well lead to stifled innovation. Now the group is enacting part two of its plan and they need your help.
The EFF announced today that it has uncovered four patents that "seem overly broad and dangerous to the open source community." They fear that the applicants could use these patents to create a monopoly on technology that "was known or was obvious before the patent was filed."
To achieve their goals, the EFF is calling upon volunteers to look for documents published before the filing of the patents. These documents must prove prior art so that the patents in question will not be granted on the grounds that the techniques described in them already existed.
The EFF has already done much of the grunt work. Each of the four patents have links to some prior art that the group has already found. There's always a need for more, however, as more evidence of prior art will help convince the patent office that the patents in question are illegitimate.
Here's the four patents that the EFF is currently targeting with the links to each patent's prior art documents:
Target 1: U.S. PATENT APP. NO. 12/976,111
PRINT HEAD ASSEMBLY FOR USE IN FUSED DEPOSITION MODELING SYSTEM
This application relates to inkjet-style removable print head cartridges used in Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printing.
Target 2: U.S. PATENT APP. NO. 12/976,204
PRINT HEAD FOR USE IN FUSED DEPOSITION MODELING SYSTEM
This application relates to a print head cartridge with a liquefier pump assembly for use in FDM printing.
Target 3: U.S. PATENT APP. NO. 12/687,996
METHOD FOR GENERATING AND BUILDING SUPPORT STRUCTURES WITH DEPOSITION-BASED DIGITAL MANUFACTURING SYSTEMS
This application relates to a method of building up support structures layer-by-layer for 3D-printed objects.
Target 4: U.S. PATENT APP. NO. 13/043,876
BUILD MATERIALS AND APPLICATIONS THEREOF
This blandly-titled application relates to 3D printing with a material that can be cured (particularly with UV light), and also claims every object that is printed with such a method.
If you happen to find any more cases of prior art for the above patents, you can send them over to the EFF at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's not guaranteed that these patents will be granted. Even if they are, the applicants may not use them to restrict 3D printing in any noticeable way. With that being said, we're already seeing companies who own 3D printing patents suing startups that are creating cheaper 3D printers. The complaints may be legitimate, but some feel that established 3D printers are trying to squash competition before it becomes too big of a threat to their business.