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Thus the fun ends, and Patent trolling begins

[UPDATE: DEC/14/2013] The Hbot patent application referenced below received a final rejection from USPTO two days ago! 

First, an introductory infographic about the effect of the outdated patent system on innovation today:

In the unlikely case you don't already know - Stratasys is suing Afinia, the distributors of the UP! printer for patent infringement. There's several patents mentioned, but some of them are pure gems. Like this one:

Behind all the lawyerly mumbo-jumbo, it basically says:

-We are making fools out of you all, so we will patent all possible ways two curves with a given thickness can pass beside each other, ignoring the fact that any self respecting programmer making a slicer app would use one of these anyway because he's not stupid. But what the hell, we've got money to spare so we'll patent it anyway. 

What it doesn't say but actually means:

-We will not sue anybody over this. Or at least not until we let independent developers and small companies create a larger market for us. Then we will buy FakerBot(TM), sue the hell out of all competition, and be the only manufacturer catering to the DIY / low-cost printing market. Then we will still play the good guys by saying: 

"IP infringement discourages companies from investing in innovation. Stratasys pioneered 3D printing, and invests millions of dollars each year to develop our technologies. In 2012 alone, Stratasys Ltd invested $33.3 million or 9.3 percent of its revenues in R&D. We intend to protect that investment." [yes, that was a direct quote]

REALLY? Let's see where their $33.3 million brought them. One of the answers is here:

Wait a minute... is that the evil identical twin of an H-Bot? Why yes, it is!

So basically, they spent millions of dollars to "invent" something that was there years before, used in all kinds of CNC machines and robots and documented on the internet well over a year or two before the filing date of their patent claim. If you take the time to actually read the patent application, you will notice an interesting thing. They never call it an H-bot configuration, which is it's common name. Why? Well, if you search the records or google the "Gantry assembly for use in blah blah blah" you will obviously miss all the references of prior art regarding your patent claim.

Basically, I want to use a screw in my application, but I don't want anybody noticing, so I call it a "spiral metal fastener with sharpened point and a means of turning via a special tool for use in whatever crap I supposedly invented". Try to google that!

If the prior art is taken into account, they basically used a proven system from subtractive manufacturing machines, and placed it, unmodified, in an additive manufacturing machine. Hardly an invention, is it? One other thing their millions of dollars have done for them is printing with a layer height every other RepRap can beat. Awesome innovation there!

All I have to say is that if inventions like these cost you millions of dollars, you should rightly be discouraged from investing in innovation. For your own good.

They are now also trying to patent 3d printing with chocolate. Yes, they use some sort of special contraption for doing it, and that's what the patent is all about, but they won't be telling people that fact once they start threatening them 'cause they printed a muffin.

I imagine the plan is simple. Pound all serious competition into the ground, and make space for your own "innovations", when people have no choice left. I can totally see a scenario where FakerBot(TM) printers suddenly start using filament in packed cartigdes (patented, because they are actually spools in a closed plastic box with a chip installed). Now that is for your own good because it is so much more reliable. (That really is a fact, though!) But it also costs 10 times more. It is beneficial to the general populace just as much as NSA surveillance. [It's just always for our own good, isn't it?] 

What's funny here is that their business model is going out-of-date. Just like in the music industry. And instead of adapting to emerging new markets, they are trying to hold on to what they have. Again, just like their older more musical cousins. 3D systems did try to adapt though, and produced the Crapify3d(TM), and I guess they also invested millions in R&D. I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned here somewhere, I just can't seem put my finger on it. Hmm....

I'm guessing that by now you kinda noticed I'm mad at them. Well, that's because we're all having a great time doing what we do, and they're trying to ruin it for all of us. The big question is will we let them?

There's not much you can do about Stratasys, they play with the big boys, but their little brother MakerBot? Oh he's ripe for a wedgie. All that is necessary is for people to understand that buying MakerBot products means supporting the bad guys who want us all to stop having fun. Your voice doesn't matter to them, but your wallet is what's keeping them alive. Now don't stop posting stuff to Thingiverse, it seems like a good idea but you are actually depriving the community of your designs that way. (There IS a nice alternative in YouMagine, but it has ways to go before becoming all it can be). Just don't give them money, that is enough.

And spread the word. :)

[PS. I am fully aware this feeble attempt at a blog means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but if somebody who is more influential than me is reading this and agrees with me on these points, it would be nice to use that aforementioned influence to make a bigger ripple in the pond than I could ever make. Oh, and thank you having the patience to read through all of this. :)]

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