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The Patents That Threaten 3-D Printing

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the system-and-method-for-existing-in-three-dimensions dept.

Hardware Hacking 134

An anonymous reader writes "We've watched patents slow down the smartphone and tablet markets. We've seen patent claims thrown against Linux, Android, and countless other software projects. Now, as 3-D printing becomes more capable and more affordable, it seems a number of patents threaten to do the same to the hobbyist and tinkerer crowd. Wired has highlighted some of the most dangerous ones, including: a patent on soluble print materials that support a structure while it's being printed; a ridiculously broad patent on distributed rapid prototyping, which could affect "every 3-D printing service that has launched in the past few years"; and an 18-year-old patent on 3-D printing using a powder and a binding material, held by MIT."

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That is what they're for... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954079)

This comes up every now and then, and it honestly looks like the majority of 3d printing patents are legitimate, original inventions that the owners created.

Take the "soluble print materials that support a structure whie it's being printed"; that's genius, I would never have come up with that.

Re:That is what they're for... (5, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954403)

In the manufacture of Diesel engine pistons, which are cast, a soluble ring of high melting point salts has long been used to form the internal oil gallery. And I am sure that this technique did not originate with pistons. The problem is that the patent office now allows inventions to be "something A which already exists + something B which already exists", without any actual inventive step.

As an example, I am a little sorry for Trevor Bayliss who never really made any money out of his wind up radio, but given hand cranked magneto telephones had been around for many years, the idea of a hand cranked magneto radio set really should not be patentable. It is just another communications device with a hand charger.

Re:That is what they're for... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954711)

It's not the idea, dumbass, it's the method of implementation that's patented. You're a low grade (inept and uninformed) troll.

Re:That is what they're for... (2, Informative)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954731)

His real breakthrough was the constant-force spring mechanism for the clockwork. Which was genuinely innovative, but became obsolete, because it replaced the impractical "dynamos charging crap batteries" approach, and then it was replaced in turn by the practical "dynamo charging good batteries". Because a dynamo charging batteries is obviously not novel, this approach probably shouldn't be patentable (although possibly someone has a patent for "dynamo charging batteries, only with batteries that aren't crap").

He didn't make any further money from the company that sold his clockwork radios because he sold his stock - the clockwork models haven't been in production since 2000, so no licensing fees.

Re:That is what they're for... (3, Interesting)

samkass (174571) | about a year and a half ago | (#42955127)

In the manufacture of Diesel engine pistons, which are cast, a soluble ring of high melting point salts has long been used to form the internal oil gallery. And I am sure that this technique did not originate with pistons. The problem is that the patent office now allows inventions to be "something A which already exists + something B which already exists", without any actual inventive step.

As an example, I am a little sorry for Trevor Bayliss who never really made any money out of his wind up radio, but given hand cranked magneto telephones had been around for many years, the idea of a hand cranked magneto radio set really should not be patentable. It is just another communications device with a hand charger.

In that case it's solving a different problem. The problem with 3D printing is that in most methods it's put down layer by layer. Thus, any "stalactites" are impossible to build without putting a support under them. There are a variety of ways to solve this; they are using a particular dissolvable-yet-printable material to solve it. Would it be immediately obvious to you which material to pick that can be deposited by a 3D printer and be structurally sound yet dissolved away?

There is a lot of solid invention that's been done over the last dozen years in the field. Ever seen InvisAlign, the invisible plastic braces? They've done all their molds with 3D Systems' stereolithography machines since 1999 and also have a bunch of patents on 3D printing mass-production/mass-customization. They spent millions developing ways to produce tens of thousands of unique, precise pieces of plastic a day, and have had issues with competitors trying to cut out all the R&D costs and undersell them.

Re:That is what they're for... (2)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about a year and a half ago | (#42955191)

Would it be immediately obvious to you which material to pick that can be deposited by a 3D printer and be structurally sound yet dissolved away?

Then why isn't the patent for that material, instead of the concept of soluble material?

Re:That is what they're for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42955647)

I'm sorry, did non-obviousness requirement say "skilled in the field" or "an average /. reader"? I thought it was former.

And by the way, they're patenting not the material, but process. Read the damn patent.

Re:That is what they're for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42956003)

"The problem is that the patent office now allows inventions to be "something A which already exists + something B which already exists", without any actual inventive step."

invention (noun) -
1 - a new, useful process, machine, improvement, etc., that did not exist previously and that is recognized as the product of some unique intuition or genius, as distinguished from ordinary mechanical skill or craftsmanship.
2 - anything invented or devised.
3 - the power or faculty of inventing, devising, or originating.
4 - an act or instance of creating or producing by exercise of the imagination, especially in art, music, etc.

The fact that you refuse to see the step of combining two existing objects into a new, never before conceived object as being inventive is hysterical.

Do you think Edison started with a rock in all of his inventions?

Re:That is what they're for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42956321)

That's not what OP meant and you damn well know it.

This has nothing to do with, for example, combining lead and acid into a lead-acid battery, and everything to do with, for example, combining a "shopping cart" with "the internet". One of these counts as an invention, the other does not. Can you guess which is which?

Re:That is what they're for... (1)

durrr (1316311) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954639)

Lost-wax casting have been around for ~5000 years. The reason why you wouldn't come up with the idea is that you're not a manufacturer and know nothing about manufacturing, whereas for those that know their shit it's nothing particularly new or fancy.

Re:That is what they're for... (1)

ajlitt (19055) | about a year and a half ago | (#42955663)

Lost wax casting involves support structures that melt, evaporate, or burn at a lower temperature than the surrounding mold. This patent covers supports that can be removed by submerging in a solvent.

Re:That is what they're for... (2)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954641)

This comes up every now and then, and it honestly looks like the majority of 3d printing patents are legitimate, original inventions that the owners created.

Take the "soluble print materials that support a structure whie it's being printed"; that's genius, I would never have come up with that.

I've got an idea! Why not make a wax support structure and MELT it! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost-wax_casting)

Re:That is what they're for... (3, Informative)

devjoe (88696) | about a year and a half ago | (#42955305)

This comes up every now and then, and it honestly looks like the majority of 3d printing patents are legitimate, original inventions that the owners created.

Take the "soluble print materials that support a structure whie it's being printed"; that's genius, I would never have come up with that.

I agree that the soluble print materials one is quite likely valid, a patent on an ingenious choice of materials that makes 3-D printing possible. This is an innovative field, and this patent is old enough to possibly be able to legitimately claim to have invented this idea and not be invalidated by prior art.

However, the patent linked in the summary on distributed rapid prototyping does not appear to have been granted, only filed (almost 6 years ago), and no doubt is having some trouble getting accepted due to broadness, prior art, and other considerations. This patent does not even appear to cover any specific 3-D printing method, but just the general process of setting up a service to produce 3-D models, and as such, should be invalidated due to being an obvious adaptation of services for conventional (2-D) printing into a new market for 3-D printing given the availability of 3-D printers.

The MIT patent is expired. It is more than 17 years since issue and more than 20 years since filing. The article says this one is "on the brink of expiration" so I assume it was written sometime last year when the patent was still valid. But it was very likely valid until it expired, and another innovation that helped establish the field.

The article contains some other possibly valid patents, e.g., the smoothing one (if there is not prior art), the temperature control one from 2004, and possibly the filament coil one if their methods for keeping the filament feed smooth and/or automatically switching spools are really original. The summary just chose (2 out of 3) bad examples out of the article which stretched a bit to make a "top 10" list.

Re:That is what they're for... (1)

MickLinux (579158) | about a year and a half ago | (#42956109)

Maybe, maybe not. I've heard it said that a good patent lawyer will keep a patent in the application process for as long as possible, because the patent doesn't start until it is granted, and meanwhile the fact that it has been applied for still stifles competition.

Another quote from the same source (though not necessarily originating from him): A patent is a gun that costs $10k to buy, and $100k to shoot.

Re:That is what they're for... (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about a year and a half ago | (#42955769)

I did think up something like that, but my idea was for it to be able to break apart into a powder afterwards.

Re:That is what they're for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42955853)

What would you have come up with? It's an obvious evolution of the technology, anyone who actually uses the technology knows that 3d prints are likely 'sag' due to gravity, so using some kind of support material that can be easily removed later is the logical option to resolve this issue.

patent system: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954083)

An intricate bureaucracy put in place to ensure that the invention and commercial realization of an idea shall be no less than twenty years apart.

Well, at least the MIT one is about to expire.

How have patents helped the world lately? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954103)

The same people that say patents are necessary seems to be like the same people who would argue that 1 or 2% increase in their taxes would cause them to stop working. Does anyone take this seriously?

I can see it perhaps in a few industries like the pharmaceutical industry but not for the last majority of fields.

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (2, Informative)

FluffyWithTeeth (890188) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954133)

They're not about helping the world. They're about protecting the rights of inventors, rather than having large companies steal their work and reproduce it in a manner they can't compete with.

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954161)

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (2)

FluffyWithTeeth (890188) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954277)

"why bother doing it if someone will steal your work"

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (5, Insightful)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954761)

"Oh shit, a large company will just steal it anyway and use their huge legal fund to squash me into the dirt. I guess I'd better just go french kiss a shotgun."

This is probably among the reasons why software has seen so much more innovation from little guys than physical engineering has recently, and not just any software, software as a service (e.g. social networks, search engines). What really matters in that space is getting into the market early and impressing people. The serious R&D in that space is mostly about scaling the service and not producing a product - so you CAN keep it a trade secret, because it's stuck behind your firewall and not in the hands of your competitors for a few dollars.

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42955037)

"Why bother doing it if someone has already obtained a patent that covers it"

Some patents are overly broad, and especially the software patents are especially bad, since it is very likely multiple inventors come up with the same idea. "Pinch to zoom" for example is based on a very basic principle on graphical user interfaces: the point you touch/click/whatever stays under the finger/cursor/whatever you touch it with. Extending that to two points gives quite trivially the "pinch to zoom" idea. The idea that you can use multiple fingers isn't very original either.

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (3, Insightful)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year and a half ago | (#42955253)

"why bother doing it if someone will steal your work"

The history of the IT field pretty much disproves that. Everyone borrowed from everyone else, and most developers never even bothered to file for patents. Would it really have been better for the IT industry if no one except Dan Bricklin had been able to produce a spreadsheet program until 1999?

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (4, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954179)

That would be better than the present state of affairs where patents are used to force monopolies on the market and the small inventors get screwed over anyway by getting bullied out of the courtroom with superior legal budgets.

The small guy will get fucked over anyway, may as well make it so that the big evil corporations don't get all the windfall.

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954183)

Bullshit. They're about protecting the rights of large companies, rather than having inventors steal their work and reproduce it in a manner they can't compete with.

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954187)

They're not about helping the world. They're about protecting the rights of inventors, rather than having large companies steal their work and reproduce it in a manner they can't compete with.

It is not about the rights of inventors, patents exist so that invention and innovation can be monetized and accumulated by big companies. Inventors get spare change if they play along.

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (2)

MtHuurne (602934) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954215)

What rights would that be? The patents themselves are the rights...

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (4, Insightful)

ikaruga (2725453) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954295)

Back in the late 19th/early 20th century patents still made some sense as most devices were pretty much single purpose. But nowadays, when the trend is to make everything do everything and there is this fusion of all types of technologies going on, this classical patent system is completely inappropriate. Depending on the field you're working, it's an inhuman task to even keep track of all patents you're infringing.
The physical/chemical 3D print methods mentioned in the article are just the tip of the iceberg. If you start nitpicking, I wouldn't be surprised by the potential huge number of both software/firmware and electromechanical/mechatronics/robotics hardware patents they break.
The worst thing is that 3d printers are just highly specialized robots. Imagine in a few years when semi-general purpose robots start becoming common appliances, as healthcare, entertainment, maintenance or security tools. Robotics is known as the field of engineering that joins all other fields and because of that, even a basic cleaning robot will infringe pretty much every type of patent in the world. I think like the moment robot companies like iRobot or Cyberdyne release a killer consumer product they will pretty much be sued in oblivion by all other companies.

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (4, Funny)

mrbester (200927) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954373)

Cyberdyne are due to make a consumer killer product real soon now...

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#42955051)

That nobody has a general-purpose robot that can do housework is prima facie evidence such does not exist.

Yet if a genius were to produce one, a thousand patent scammers would crawl out of the woodwork. Nevermind that it's all in the software and the rest is just 80 year old animatronic-style hardware.

Then after that round of lawyers will come the slip-and-fall ambulance chasers. I can't imagine such a product surviving without a good black box that also records humans around it.

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954321)

They were invented to protect the rights of the inventors. But were legislated to promote innovation and economic growth.

With companies holding their money offshore, outsourcing production and suing into submission their competition or anyone contesting their right to use those inventions, I'd say patents law failed on all fronts.

A month ago, there was an interesting story, about a pharma corp with wonder drug and expiring patent. Funny thing, the drug is so complex, even with the competition knowing how to make the drug, they'll still hold the monopoly. Actually, not that funny, because I'm one of those that would appreciate that certain drug at a more affordable price.

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (1, Troll)

famebait (450028) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954455)

Wrong.
There is no such thing as a natural ownership of any kind of knowledge.

Patents and other intellectual rights are articifical limitations on personal freedom, devised and enforced by societies in order to acheive specififc aims. From the start of patents and until this day, "to promote progress" is the rhetoric used in order to justify the otherwise draconian measure of punishing people for using what they know.

It is not obvious that this tradeoff is a good one for all times and all societies. Similarly, a society is not bound by the self-imposed limitations of any another, unless it agrees to be.

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (1, Insightful)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954699)

There is no such thing as a natural ownership of any kind of knowledge.

Also wrong. You can "own" knowledge without owning it exclusively. I own knowledge on how to operate my DVD player, for example - something others in this household never bothered to acquire. The patent system was designed so that people could make their exclusive knowledge patently known without losing the benefit of keeping it secret. One reason why a patent is supposed to be on knowledge that's not obvious or commonly (patently) known (and therefore not exclusive).

Most people think it's a good idea to be able to protect one's original thought while promoting it for personal gain. Where the whole concept went sour is when we started allowing patents on things that were either broad concepts (especially without explicit illustrations) or obvious to everyone. Such as adding "on the Internet" to anything anyone ever did over the last 10-20 millennia or more.

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42955203)

Ok then. Only let small inventors own patents. Large companies can't.

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (2)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about a year and a half ago | (#42955785)

And yet they are being stolen anyway, and the small inventor still can't compete because the large company can afford better lawyers.

Re:How have patents helped the world lately? (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#42956265)

Where the hell did you get THAT idea [yonkershistory.org] ?!

News for Nerds? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954115)

An 18-year-old patent is "news"?

Blah blah blah patents bad blah blah blah. What do people come here for, information, or confirmation bias?

Re:News for Nerds? (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954759)

We all come here for the less than occasional genius-level nugget of wisdom... oh8, and because it impresses the chicks.

Let's not confuse patent applications with patents (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954151)

The wired article also admits as much (before drumming up the hysteria).

If you dig into PAIR on the broad patent for all 3D printing done over the web, for example (http://portal.uspto.gov/pair/PublicPair, search for application 11/818,521 and go to "image file wrapper) the examiner and prospective patenter are engaged in a pretty intense fight over the obviousness of the application.

Not all that bad (4, Interesting)

_Ludwig (86077) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954193)

The distributed rapid prototyping one is absurdly broad and pretty obvious, but it's worth noting that it is still pending. The soluble materials one covers specific formulations, not the general concept of a "lost armature." Makerbot, on the other hand, appears to have successfully patented the conveyor belt.

World dev. shifting to Asia due to patent lawyers? (4, Insightful)

fantomas (94850) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954217)

Lawyers do seem to be crushing innovation in the USA. Do you think it's possible that innovation and the world's lead in technical developments will shift to places where inventors/creators/small start ups are less inhibited by patent /copyright etc laws, and new products get pushed out without so much risk of being crushed by established old organisations? I'm wondering if places where legal frameworks aren't so closely adhered to will take the lead in the near future and be tolerated by their national governments as a way of increasing their share of the world economy?

Re:World dev. shifting to Asia due to patent lawye (1, Troll)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954333)

No, because China only copies others. A slowdown in Western innovation due to patents will not result in relocation. There just won't be much innovation.

Wasn't this said of Japan in the 50s and 60s? (5, Informative)

fantomas (94850) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954359)

"No, because China only copies others..... There just won't be much innovation."

Wasn't this the claim made about Japan in USA and Europe in the 1950s and 1960s? that they just produced inferior copies of Western goods and competed by selling poorer quality copies at cheaper prices? e.g. in the camera and automotive industries?

The counter argument was that they learnt production methods and began to understand the desires of the USA/European market and then went on to improve quality and offer innovations, while Western companies were complacent and said "we know what our people want, we'll continue to make the same kind of autos / cameras etc.". I'd be interested in opinions from Detroit for example ("Motor City").

Re:Wasn't this said of Japan in the 50s and 60s? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954423)

China is already innovating and developing on its own, anyone still claiming otherwise is wrong. A article on slashdot was about chinees researching finding something interesting a while back. Completely forgot what it was about though.

Re:Wasn't this said of Japan in the 50s and 60s? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954951)

"chinees researching finding something interesting a while back. Completely forgot what it was about though."

You should have. It was a memory and spelling device.

Re:Wasn't this said of Japan in the 50s and 60s? (5, Interesting)

malkavian (9512) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954465)

That was exactly what was said of the US about a century or so ago. It was notorious for not following copyright, or any other form of IP protection, and spawned many a copy of works. Then when it had become established and used its own internal knowledge to create new variants, it used foreign legal systems to prevent the idea being used there, and thus stay ahead.
It worked for the US. It worked for Japan. It's a proven strategy that'll work for China too.. Last time I was there, I saw what looked like a sizeable town being built in the rural backroads.. I was informed it was a new university campus being built, and that it was far from the only one.
China understands that the way to growth and development is education and work combined. They're slowly insourcing all the key components to let it succeed. When they have the R&D, the specialists and the production all done locally, that's when the MBAs will suddenly wake up and realise that the really simple thing to insource is the management.

Re:World dev. shifting to Asia due to patent lawye (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954419)

Good grief, do you even know what the word "only" means?

A correct usage of the term is: You only know about China from reading about how they've copied others.

But how much American innovation is in fact done by Chinese immigrants?

When one thing changes, other things change. China has about four times the capacity to innovate than the US does. It just finds it more profitable to perform that innovation in the US. For now.

Re:World dev. shifting to Asia due to patent lawye (1)

mrpacmanjel (38218) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954401)

Judging by the teams of US "Ambassadors" being sent into Europe and I assume into Asia too all that may change.

Irony repeating itself (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954603)

Starting out, the US ripped-off quite a bit of IP and tech from Jolly Old, all of it justified by the Revolutionary War thing.

Re:World dev. shifting to Asia due to patent lawye (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954957)

In fact, the nations that sweep away patent protection against the common good will streak ahead of the moribund USA and similar countries.

Patents approved by over-worked and under-paid examiners are usually worthless. They are just fodder for patent trolls and should be cancelled

Re:World dev. shifting to Asia due to patent lawye (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42955815)

First of all, if you think that China, Japan and Korea are some kind of patent-free zone, you are sadly mistaken. It is not unusual to see patents in all of those jurisdictions as well as the U.S., several European countries (GB, DE, FR principally), Australia and Israel.

Second, patents can protect significant investments. While pharmaceuticals are the most obvious case, there are many other areas where the case for investment does not survive if there are not patents on expensive-to-develop technology. First-mover advantage only goes so far these days.

And really, an 18-year-old MIT patent is a real problem? Sounds like a real breakthrough to me.

Re:World dev. shifting to Asia due to patent lawye (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year and a half ago | (#42956375)

Lawyers do seem to be crushing innovation in the USA. Do you think it's possible that innovation and the world's lead in technical developments will shift to places where inventors/creators/small start ups are less inhibited by patent /copyright etc laws, and new products get pushed out without so much risk of being crushed by established old organisations?

No, because the USA would simply apply massive diplomatic and economic pressure to force those countries to bring their IP laws in line with those of America.

I'm not convinced there's anywhere you can go to get away from those established old organizations -- especially since it would appear that the diplomats take their marching orders from the corporations and let them write some of the proposals. Almost all of the IP treaties the US pushes on other countries have essentially been written by industry.

Nature has prior art (2)

dataxtream (1292440) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954279)

Can you patent a natural process? Swifts have been 3D printing for millennia (birds nest (soup)). Ditto Snails (shells), Bees (hives). Prior Art is all around us.

Re:Nature has prior art (2)

famebait (450028) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954477)

They don't build machines to do it.
You could build stuff that way yourself too, manually using a hot glue gun or an icing bag or whatever (I won't get into the more literal or imaginative emulations) and it would probably not be patentable, and certainly not covered by current 3D printing patents.

Re:Nature has prior art (2)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about a year and a half ago | (#42955841)

That's cute. Companies have been patenting genes for a while now, ones found in the wild without any modification by the company. If that doesn't count as prior art, I don't see how nests or hives would.

Patents don't affect hobbyists (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954317)

Patents are only applicable if you intend to commercialize the machine/invention. i.e. they regulate business only.
For other purposes patents are free to use. You can build literally every invention in the patent office without permission.

Re:Patents don't affect hobbyists (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954431)

True. E.g. in the UK, PA77 Section 60(5)a:

(5) An act which, apart from this subsection, would constitute an infringement of a patent for an invention shall not do so if -
        (a) it is done privately and for purposes which are not commercial;

http://ukpatents.wikispaces.com/Section+60

Re:Patents don't affect hobbyists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42955087)

(a) it is done privately and for purposes which are not commercial;

Open source is quite far from doing things "privately".

Re:Patents don't affect hobbyists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954447)

Patents are only applicable if you intend to commercialize the machine/invention. i.e. they regulate business only.

That is common misconception, and a dangerous one - you could expose yourself to litigation and paying the damages to patent holders.

Re:Patents don't affect hobbyists (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954689)

That is common misconception, and a dangerous one - you could expose yourself to litigation and paying the damages to patent holders.

Only if you live in an insane litigation-ridden country like the US.

If you're unlucky enough to live there, make sure you publish only on non-US sites, and keep your Internet and RL identities separate.

Re:Patents don't affect hobbyists (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954697)

No, it is not a common misconception. But it depends on which country you live in. Private non-commercial usage and even studies of existing patents are license-free in many countries. So, check your local laws.

Re:Patents don't affect hobbyists (1)

Pale Dot (2813911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954543)

Wasn't there a story recently about some gene patent? The owner of the patent if I remember correctly was suing a nonprofit. Besides if a company decides to give away a product, wouldn't that qualify as commercial already?

Re:Patents don't affect hobbyists (2)

dkf (304284) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954773)

The owner of the patent if I remember correctly was suing a nonprofit.

"Nonprofit" just refers to what happens to the profits and how ownership is arranged, not to the sort of business that is being conducted.

Re:Patents don't affect hobbyists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954865)

Nonprofits can still conduct commerce. Look at Salvation Army stores and Habitat For Humanity stores.

Wsex 3ith a Troll (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954351)

tto many rules and

If you want to get rich (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954405)

Just patent a bunch of imaginary stuff and then claim ownership once someone actually makes a thing like that.

End the "Idea" Patents (3, Insightful)

Kilo Kilo (2837521) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954449)

Having just submitted my first provisional patent, one for an actual, physical device, these patents for "vague ideas of doing something" look more and more absurd every day. If you don't know how to do something, then you really haven't invented anything. I've got this idea of a car that runs on rainbows and happy thoughts. Here's a poorly drawn picture of a rainbow and a smiling person sitting in the car and the car is moving.

Re:End the "Idea" Patents (1)

PGC (880972) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954499)

/me quickly submits patent for 'rainbow car'.

A Simple Solution - (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954475)

Civil disobedience.

Ignore the patent system. Chances are you're not going to get caught anyway. Same as piracy.

Re:A Simple Solution - (2)

amnezick (1253408) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954567)

Here's a thought.

Say this guy invents some weird stuff made from calcium salts, petroleum jelly and aliphatic acids that you mold or whatever and you can make stuff with it. There is only one method this substance can be obtained and he patents it. All good until now.

Then there's this other guy who knows the ingredients (everyone knows the ingredients because they're easy to find out) and he knows the method but he can't sell the product because there's only one way to make the product and it's patented. But he has a brilliant idea: why not sell the people a device with a slot for each ingredient which then mixes the ingredients and applies patented method to obtain product. Better yet, he sells a customer some plastic to use in his 3d printer, an arduino and some motors to connect the printed parts to and he also sells the ingredient (which could very well be calcium salts, petroleum jelly and some aliphatic acids, stearic maybe??).

How can you argue that he is infringing on the patent if he only sells some plastic, an arduino board which you could program later with some software you download from this guy's website, and some "random" chemicals?

Re:A Simple Solution - (1)

qbast (1265706) | about a year and a half ago | (#42955331)

Yeah, sure. Why not claim that you are selling just a bunch of atoms which for some reason happen to be assembled in a way that closely resembles patented device? Let's see if this convinces a judge.

Re:A Simple Solution - (1)

pepty (1976012) | about a year and a half ago | (#42956207)

And that is where "induced infringement" comes in - where several parties together infringe on a claimed method in some coordinated manner. Defining "coordinated" is a process that is still getting hashed out in the courts, I think. I've been wondering about where the line is for a few years because any reasonable boundary should allow an end run around the patents on genetic diagnostic tests:

1. Party A sequences your genome, sends it to you.

2. Party B is a website that supplies free downloadable software that will read the file and score any tests you are interested in. Academic labs have been doing this for some tests for a while now already.

Neither part in isolation is protectable by patent. So long as there's no coordination between the two, once you have your genome sequenced all of your genetic tests (except for ones that require a new sample from a particular tissue, like the ones that are going to become common for cancer diagnostics) will be free for the rest of your life.

Is this like "on the internet?" (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954555)

Is "with 3d printing" the next "on the internet?"
Like, can I get a patent for making a plastic spoon "with 3d printing?"

If I want a REALLY strong patent, I can have people design their personalized spoon "on the internet" which is then automatically made "with 3d printing."

My patent will be double-protected and bullet-proof!

18 years = expired (1)

decora (1710862) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954577)

uhm.... pretty sure patents have a time limit...

Re:18 years = expired (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42956165)

Yes they do, and according to SCOTUS it is "infinity - 1". I am sure that is what the framers in the constitution intended it to be when they wrote it in as "The Congress shall have power...To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;" /s

It's like mig-welding something from nothing.... (3, Interesting)

Slugster (635830) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954629)

I recall reading that bulldozer wheels were rebuilt by wire-welding at least as far back as the 1960's.

As a (steel-track) bulldozer gets used, the dirt between the wheels and tracks causes the wheels to wear down and decrease in diameter. To fix the problem, there are automatic machines that slowly rotate the wheel while running a wire-feed welder back and forth across the worn-down surface. When the wheel's outer diameter has reached a point where it is slightly larger than necessary, the wheel is removed and machined back down to the proper diameter again.

Seems a hassle but apparently it is a lot cheaper than making a whole new wheel.

Re:It's like mig-welding something from nothing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42955671)

Not only with wire welding. There were processes in the 1960's which used fine metal powders sprayed out through an oxyacetylene flame.

It was called hard facing and there were machines build to controll the process programmatically.

A good operator could make replacment parts for many expensive and/or hard to find items.

Summary starts with false premise (0)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954637)

We've watched patents slow down the smartphone and tablet markets.

Wrong. part of the problem is that we haven't. We have seen an endless stream of stupid patents, huge lawsuits (apple v samsung), and still we buy and the market continues apace.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:World_Wide_Smartphone_Sales_Share.png [wikipedia.org]
http://www.lessonspace.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Untitled.jpg [lessonspace.org]
http://www.digitaltrends.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/pc-sales-cannibalized-by-tablets-chart-bill-shopes-goldman-sachs-2010.jpg [digitaltrends.com]

There is no government pressure to stop, and no market pressure from consumers to stop. I recently bought a smartphone -and- a tablet. A Samsung and a Kindle. Both companies own hoards of stupid patents. But so would anyone else I chose to purchase from, and I needed or strongly desired the devices. Even if there were a high percentage of consumers educated in this (there are not enough to sway any market), I doubt there was a single vendor in the chain of sale for either that does not have what we here would consider BS IP. For the phone it was Sprint and Samsung, for the tablet Walmart and Amazon. This isn't even considering the software vendors included with both purchases or added later.

So, all you anti regulation libertarians? Who steps in to fix that? Not the gov, its either paid off as it is now, asleep at the switch, or castrated and powerless (as libertarians would have it).

Re:Summary starts with false premise (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42954837)

You personally haven't seen it, no. I've been in the smart phone game a long time (and hold many stupid patents - it wasn't my decision to file them) and patents certainly do slow innovation. You would probably be shocked to see what actually happens behind closed doors.

The reality of the situation is depressing. Sadly, I can so no more publicly.

Re:Summary starts with false premise (2)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954855)

My point was they may slow down innovation, but not the markets. It is the markets that drive companies so without market or government pressure the status quo remains.

Use them or lose them (1)

im3w1l (2009474) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954715)

Patents should work like trademarks: Use them or lose them. These sneak attacks long after the fact suck.

Re:Use them or lose them (0)

Threni (635302) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954783)

Car analogy:

And my car should work. But the damn thing's broken so I'm going to have to walk.

Re:Use them or lose them (1)

samkass (174571) | about a year and a half ago | (#42955075)

Patents should work like trademarks: Use them or lose them. These sneak attacks long after the fact suck.

Well, 3D Systems has been in the 3D printing equipment business since the 90's, and is one of the biggest innovators of the technology. So I'm not sure I see your point.

Re:Use them or lose them (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#42955157)

they are used.. 3d systems uses them all the time and this is why some cheapos are missing very obvious improvements.

Normally a patent supporter but...... (3, Informative)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954717)

The problem is companies are more and more using broad range patents to control whole industries. That is NOT how patents are meant to be used. I don't want to see a limiting so much as a modification and redirection. Notice many of these patents are from the 90s and even 80s or before. Some of them are not based on a product so much as an antiscipation of a need to they file an offensive/defensive patent then they wait until alot of major companies are using the process and rack up big profits then they sue. Two simple cures, if they really do have a product give them three years to develop it so most of these troll patents would have expired. I'm talking patents on methods and other broad range patents like gestures and such. Also force them to file within 12 months of a competing product being release. That would kill off these massive lawsuits for 5 to 10 years of infringement before they even filed. Better yet force them to file a cease and desist and give the company 6 to 12 months to stop infringing then if the company fails to comply they can sue to day one. I'm guessing the vast majority of companies had no idea they were infringing and most would make the needed changes to avoid the lawsuit. The current system encourages greed by allowing the patent holder to wait years before filing against a company. This actually prevents the company from stopping the infringement since they aren't made aware of the problem. The system doesn't need to be scrapped it needs to be fixed and reasonable rules and limitations brought in.

Re:Normally a patent supporter but...... (2)

Theaetetus (590071) | about a year and a half ago | (#42955437)

The current system encourages greed by allowing the patent holder to wait years before filing against a company. This actually prevents the company from stopping the infringement since they aren't made aware of the problem. The system doesn't need to be scrapped it needs to be fixed and reasonable rules and limitations brought in.

The current system has already fixed this. It's called the Laches doctrine [wikipedia.org] . You can't sit, knowing that there's an infringer, and wait for years before every contacting them or filing suit, or else equity will prevent you from going after them.
The other part of this, submarine patents, were done away with in an amendment in 2000 that requires all applications to be published, and expire 20 years from the priority date. No more filing secret continuations for decades to stretch out a 17-year-from-grant term.

Re:Normally a patent supporter but...... (1)

MickLinux (579158) | about a year and a half ago | (#42956197)

The problem is companies are more and more using broad range patents to control whole industries. That is NOT how patents are meant to be used.

From Wikipedia, the "History of Patent Law",

England

In England the Crown issued letters patent providing any person with a monopoly to produce particular goods or provide particular services. Apart from the grant to John Kempe and his company mentioned above[4] an early example of such letters patent was a grant by Henry VI in 1449 to John of Utynam, a Flemish man, for a 20 year monopoly for his invention.

This was the start of a long tradition by the English Crown of granting of letters patent which granted monopolies to favoured persons (or people who were prepared to pay for them).[14] Blackstone (same reference) also explains how "letters patent" (Latin "literae patentes", "letters that lie open") were so called because the seal hung from the foot of the document: they were addressed "To all to whom these presents shall come" and could be read without breaking the seal, as opposed to "letters close", addressed to a particular person who had to break the seal to read them.

Point being, I'm not sure that you are correct about that. It seems that under Yee Merrye Olde Englande, there is a fine tradition of squashing whole industries, to better keep the commoners enslaved to the nobility.

Re:Normally a patent supporter but...... (1)

pepty (1976012) | about a year and a half ago | (#42956409)

Notice many of these patents are from the 90s and even 80s or before.

Patent claims expire after 20 years with few exceptions.

if they do have a product give them three years to develop it so most of these troll patents would have expired. I'm talking patents on methods and other broad range patents like gestures and such.

So if you invent something you have to get it into a product on the market within three years or you lose the patent? What if you don't have the rights to the rest of the widget your invention applies to? Also, who defines what is or isn't a broad range patent? It seems like a definition that is made by popularity in the marketplace, probably years and years after the patent was filed.

Also force them to file within 12 months of a competing product being release. That would kill off these massive lawsuits for 5 to 10 years of infringement before they even filed.

What if it takes more than a year for you to find out that your invention is a part of their product? You don't have to disclose all of the IP involved in making a widget to the public to sell the widget.

That MIT patent has expired. (2)

L. J. Beauregard (111334) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954797)

It's been both 20 years from filing and 17 years from grant.

Re:That MIT patent has expired. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42956351)

It's 20 years now !?!?

True (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954891)

I think were at a point of evolution where we need to ask why we have patents in the first place. At one point the patent was a protection "device" that gave a certain level of safety to a product. Now the patent seems to be more of a weapon in the court room used to stall progress and strangle inventions. So saying that gets me to my final point, why do we still have patents, why can't we just be inventive, creative and free to design, built and use what we want in a knowledge sharing environment. I would hate to see something like hobby 3D printing go the way of the dogs because some company's feel the massive ego they carry is more important then the ability to be creative.

Gee so difficult.. (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | about a year and a half ago | (#42954953)

a patent on soluble print materials - license it or come up with a different technique (using different chemicals for example) if you want to do that.

distributed rapid prototyping - don't use a web server. The diagnostics over a network interface is harder to work around. This does seem rather broad and non-inventive...

printing using a powder and a binding material - wait for it to expire. That shouldn't be hard since you only have to wait until 2012.

OK. We get it, already! (1)

Jawnn (445279) | about a year and a half ago | (#42955045)

The patent office is populated by idiots. Tech patents are almost always overly broad, ignore prior art, obvious, etc. We...get...it. So how long will we continue to be subjected to the interminable stream of stories and the even more predictable stream of comments?

bullshit!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42955171)

I conceived of temporary support structures for self-replicating, universal assemblers to use while building an object atom-by-atom. The only difference is that my idea does not destroy the structures by dissolving them when they are no longer needed (for support or for nanobots to climb). Instead, my idea is to disassemble the structures piece by piece and be able to re-use the support structure material. I would use my same idea for 3D printing. I would ignore anyone's patent because I conceived of this idea in the 1990's. No one has to know what's going on in my basement anyway. How I would make my objects is nobody's business.

Patent system too slow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42955365)

The patent system is just too slow for the way the world works now.

Technological progress is accelerating in many ways, and making things does not require a large manufacturing or team.

I feel that the patent lifetime should be much shorter to allow for this.
Also the patents should need to be much more unique.

Patent reform should be applied retroactively also. This is a stunner, but so many thigs from the past are so obvious now.
We need to be able to stimulate the economy with inventions where you want to actually make something physical or abstract from it and sell it.

Why the patent system is obsolete (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42955561)

The idea behind patents is legitimate--to protect inventors from getting screwed out of reaping the benefits of their inventions by some big faceless corporation that can afford to under-bid them and out-run them to market. The idea is that by giving the inventor a limited period of sole rights to produce the product of their invention, you give them more incentive to invent things that people can benefit from.

In practice though, this doesn't work, because the cost of registering all of the patents you need and then defending them against the corporations and their lawyers is so prohibitively high, that only another giant faceless corporation can afford to do it in the first place. Modern day inventors end up working directly for the very corporations that are ripping them off, by signing over their ideas to have them patented by the corporation instead, in exchange for a tiny bonus check, since they could never afford to go forward with cashing it in themselves.

Now patents are just their own thriving industry of innovation-stifling cash-farming litigation. Companies dump millions of dollars on trying to sneak stupid, overly-broad prior art patents past the patent office, so that they can make money suing people who actually innovate.

We need the patent system, but not as it is. Simply doing away with it would hurt innovation just as much as it presently hurts innovation with its abuse. It needs to be reformed to better protect inventors while allowing for an easier, lower cost of entry for truly innovative ideas, and preventing patent trolling by big companies.

You people dont get it. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42955635)

Patents are in place to protect the original inventors and owners of said patent. THIS IS WHAT THEY ARE THERE FOR

But anytime something is threatened by a patent already in place that is being wholely or in portion by someone else later you guys throw a fit and rant and rave if the patent threatens something you are interested in or if the patent protects some big company.

Regardless of what it is if someone violates a patent then they should be held responsible regardless if it interefeares with something or helps a large corporation. But everyone here acts like they are certified patent attorneys and talk like they know how the law should work when you guys dont know squat, you just want to bitch and spew out uninformative and often wrong things about patents just because you have nothing else to do.

You guys seem to think that laws should be flexible and everything should work out to your satisfaction. If someone owns a patent and someone else infringes on it then thats pretty much end of the story. But again people get on here bitch about patent laws, bitch about when someone gets sued over it, bitch that the government doesnt do anything, relublicans line their pockets and whatever else insane and mindless dribble you come up. You read some headline and get all upset about it and bitch and whine but the reality is you dont know squat. You read some little headline and you dont know anything about patents or their laws.

I am 100% behind patent laws and do not question them. Are they perfect? No. Do problems occasionally come because of them? Yes. But nothing is perfect and considering the vast majority of patents do what they are meant to do I wont complain.

For gods sake if someone suddenly says "Apple stole my patent for the ipad and Im suing them" you all would line up behind that person even if they didnt have a shred of proof and rant about how apple is screwing the little guy. Even if that person didnt have a patent or anything you would join them just because they are against apple. Just like if say Intel sued someone for ripping off a patent they own you would hate in intel even if they are 100% in the right just because its a big company.

Fooled you! (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#42956021)

I have a 4D printer. Its very slow.

Let's see your patent for that, smarty-pants.

Slashdot is like an IP hypochrondriac (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42956407)

It worries and worries about patents, but patents never actually end up being a real problem. Oh patents on 3d printers.. I might have problems! Oh, patents on GUI... I might have problems!

Take some prozac.

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