In November 2013 leading 3D printer company Stratasys announced that it was filing a patent infringement lawsuit against Afinia, a division of Microboards Technology LLC. The complaint alleges that Afinia's sale, promotion and use of its Series H printer infringes patents directed to part porosity, liquefier structure, temperature control, and tool paths for constructing part perimeters.
According to Attorney William J. Cass, of Cantor Colburn, "Afinia has included affirmative defenses of patent misuse and will be investigating a potential claim for antitrust (by patent) given the significant differences between the asserted claims and the Afinia H Series."
Stratasys' core technology is Fused Deposition Modeling or FDM. According to the company, Stratasys invests millions of dollars each year to develop their the technology. But now it is threatened by those low-cost 3D printers available in the market, Afinia is one of them. These consumer 3D printers are cheap and offer great functionality, therefore they are very popular among makers, DIYers, designers and educational institutions.
Stratasys alleges violation of four of its patents. Makezine summarized here:
1. The '925 Patent covers adjusting the rate of printing to create gaps in the infill. That means any printer that uses some sort of infill control would be infringing.
2. The '058 Patent covers the heated build platform. Heated build platform is commonly used on many 3D printers, including Afinia to keep freshly sprayed material above the temperature at which it would solidify.
3. The '124 Patent covers the control of the temperature of the material before it is sprayed. Obviously Afinia's extruder is not unique enough and Stratasys believes its patent is being infringed upon by Afinia.
4. The '239 Patent covers a method for concealing the seams caused by layering sprayed material and Stratasys says Afinia uses its method.
Stratasys said it invested $33.3 million or 9.3 percent of its revenues in R&D in 2012 alone. "We intend to protect that investment." said David Reis, Stratasys Ltd. CEO.
Afinia posted a response that denies all infringement and intents to fight it out. What happen next? Patents lawsuits are incredibly expensive, so it could be possible that both companies enter into a royalty agreement. But what if Stratasys decided to win the lawsuit over Afinia to stop distribution of their printers? Many other companies are using same features described above, will Stratasys sue them all? We have to wait and see.
Posted in 3D Printing Company
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RG wrote at 1/19/2014 12:33:13 PM:
I have a makerbot but if stratasys continues on this line I will never ever ever ever buy anythung from them again. And I will also encourage everyone to not buy from them aswell.
Xymon wrote at 1/4/2014 11:49:18 PM:
SLS and SL patent expiry will out value Stratsys at the top end, and the competition at the bottom end of the market is getting really cutthroat, they want to scare away these guys. Trying to compete with $200 machines wont recoup thier buyout costs!
Jimmy Rustle wrote at 1/4/2014 1:31:09 AM:
i have a feeling that stratasissy spends more on lawyers than r&d. while they do make a nice machine - there's just not a lot that's different from prior art of cnc machines and hot melt glue guns. so they focus on the government to prevent competitors because they have nothing that could compete on a level playing field. and so they are going for lawyers to screw up the landscape. statasys is going down. when you depend on thuggery for survival, you are neither supplying a demand nor worthy of custom.