It's one thing to protect your intellectual property. It's another to stifle innovation. The Electronic Freedom Foundation is fighting back against opportunistic patent trolls by challenging six pending patent applications that it says could threaten the field of 3D printing. EFF's Julie Samuels explains in a blog post:
"If there's something that drives us crazy, it's when patents get in the way of innovation. Unfortunately, we often don't find out about the most dangerous patents until it's too late — once they've been used to assert infringement. That's why we were encouraged by the new provision of the patent law that allows third parties to easily challenge patent applications while those applications are still pending."
The organization, which aims to defend innovation, privacy and consumer rights, identified six applications with the help of the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, the Stack Exchange community and directly from users. These pending applications include a process for building wax parts in layers with selective laser sintering and another for 3D printing chocolate objects.
3D printing serves to disrupt the manufacturing process, allowing hardware makers to quickly prototype before replicating their products on a larger scale. Furthermore, as the technology improves and price decreases, this is something individuals can access with a home 3D printer or membership to a workshop. To ensure this burgeoning field will continue to flourish, the EFF has taken steps to file the necessary paperwork with the Patent Office.
"That in turn helps protect the diverse, exciting uses of 3D printing that are gaining in popularity every day, from small hobbyist printers to large-scale, high-quality commercial fabrication using materials ranging from titanium to chocolate," Samuels writes.
The EFF will continue its patent campaign by investigating applications related to mesh networking technology.
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