November 22, 2012
3D Systems Files Lawsuit Against Kickstarter For Promoting Formlabs Campaign
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Kickstarter is being sued for promoting a new 3D printer due to patent infringement after drumming up more than 2,000 supporters.
The 3D printer in question has already helped to raise Formlabs over $2.9 million to build the device. However, one company has decided the printer was a little too familiar.
3D Systems has opened up a lawsuit against the crowd-funding website, claiming that one of its patents was being infringed by the promoted machine.
This is the first time Kickstarter has become involved in a case linked to a product marketed on its site, according to Public Access to Court Electronic Records system.
3D Systems questions the stereolithography printing technique, which involves directing an ultraviolet laser across a liquid synthetic substance to cause a thin layer to solidify. This step is repeated over and over again, helping to create the 3D shape.
The company invented a solution to a problem that arrived when the technique first arrived back in the 1980s. The original method had trouble if a feature was too thin, causing the shape not to solidify properly.
3D System's solution involved adapting the process so each layer did not need to be completed before moving on. Staggering at which point each part of a cross-section is solidified helps to provide greater support to the structure.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab are behind the Formlabs product. They said they used stereolithography to help their printer achieve a "layer thickness and feature sizes that are ahead of what is possible."
Formlabs said other high-definition 3D printers cost tens of thousands of dollars, but they plan to offer one to those who pledged $2,299 or more.
3D Systems said it was "well known" in the industry that it had a significant portfolio of stereolithography-related patents, and it had already been involved with other lawsuits to help defend its intellectual property.
The company claims that Formlabs must've known, or had chosen not to find out, whether it was infringing on a patent.
TechCrunch reported that 3D Systems believes Formlabs is infringing on claims 1 and 34 of U.S. Patent No. 5,597,520. However, the site also reported that Formlabs was able to keep the cost of the printer lower because a few patents had expired.
3D Systems claims the crowd-funding campaign caused "immediate and irreparable injury and damage to" to the company, according to a court filing. Kickstarter took a 5 percent cut of the pledges made to Formlabs.