New Scientist’s Paul Marks has a new column about a curious little patent that could have huge consequences for the world of additive manufacturing.

From New Scientist, “US patent 8286236, granted on 9 October to Intellectual Ventures of Bellevue, Washington, lends a 3D printer the ability to assess whether a computer design file it's reading has an authorization code appended that grants access for printing. If it does not, the machine simply refuses to print - whether it's a solid object, a textile or even food that's being printed.”

Now, one can argue that it’s important for companies who make patented products to protect their designs.  I’m in complete agreement with that. But aren’t there better ways to protect intellectual property?  Should 3D printers be built to inherently limit the freedom of what you can print?

The origins of this patent are also particularly disconcerting. The owners of this patent aren’t the manufacturers of 3D printing systems but rather Intellectual Ventures, a firm that “trades in patent rights”. Intellectual Ventures business model is based upon licensing patents within their portfolio and ruthlessly litigating anyone that violates them.

Some manufacturers might find the type of protection that Intellectual Ventures offers beneficial.  But as an industry we have to ask ourselves this question: “Is it profitable to be set upon by the constant fear of litigation from a company that does not participate in the community?” In the long run, if this type of "patent trolling" is allowed to take a foothold in the industry, I can only see this development as a net negative for 3D printing .

Read the Entire Article at New Scientist

 

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