Tag Archives: intellectual property

3D Printing Brings Classic Patents Back to Life

3D Printing Patents

Finding Inspiration at the U.S. PTO

If you are looking for novel designs that can be 3D printed, New York-based intellectual property lawyer Martin Galese has lots of ideas, and none of them are his own.

Mr. Galese instead has a very creative approach for sourcing his designs; he finds them in detailed drawings from expired patents from the U.S. PTO.

Here, for example, is a cutting edge watch stand concept from 1979, U.S. Pat. No. 4,293,953, which claims, ”an improved watch stand so that a wrist watch can serve as a night table clock when no being worn on a wrist.”

3D Printing Patents

And here is a self-measuring bottle from U.S. Pat. No. 836,466, dated 1906. It’s incredible that the original designer developed this concept without the support of CAD software, and now it can be brought to life through 3D printing.

3D Printing Patents

Mr. Galese maintains the designs on his blog “Patent-able” and as a collection on Thingiverse.

His work was recently featured in the New York Times blog, including a chopstick holder from the 1960s and a portable chess set from the 1940s. He told the New York Times, “If you look at the figures in older patents, the 19th century patents are really beautiful. They’re really works of art.”

3D Printing Patents




Top 3D Printing News Last Week: MakerBot Acquired, Modibot Kickstarter

3D printing news

3D Printing News

A roundup of the top 3D printing news from June 17 to June 23:

Tuesday, June 18

Wednesday, June 19

Saturday, June 22

Sunday, June 23


3D Printing Patents: EFF Fights Patent Trolls For Future Innovation

3D Printing Patents

EFF Seeks to Invalidate 6 Basic 3D Printing Patents

Following through with a statement made in October, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has published an intention to invalidate 6 pending patents by collecting prior art from the crowd.

Here is their announcement:

If there’s something that drives us crazy, it’s when patents get in the way of innovation. Unfortunately, we often don’t find out about the most dangerous patents until it’s too late—once they’ve been used to assert infringement. That’s why we were encouraged by the new provision of the patent law that allows third parties to easily challenge patent applications while those applications are still pending.

But, here’s the rub: it’s hard to identify those dangerous applications. And, once you do, it’s even harder to find the right information to challenge those applications during the window that the law allows. So we partnered with the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and Ask Patents and—most importantly—you.

As of today, we’ve now challenged six pending patent applications that you helped us identify as applications that, if granted, would particularly threaten the growing field of 3D printing technology. Harvard’s Cyberlaw Clinic hand delivered the first two submissions to the Patent Office earlier this year, and we’ve since sent in four more.

The prior art we’ve submitted so far thanks to your submissions ranges from patents and blog posts to research papers and symposium proceedings. Each prior art document gives the Patent Office tools to reject patent claims for obviousness. That in turn helps protect the diverse, exciting uses of 3D printing that are gaining in popularity each day, from small hobbyist printers to large-scale, high-quality commercial fabrication using materials ranging from titanium to chocolate.

Here are copies of what we submitted to the Patent Office. The good news is that so far, the Patent Office has accepted our submissions (because of that, if you’re thinking of making your own preissuance submissions, you might want to use these as a model). Now we wait to see whether our input influences the examiners.

Our work doesn’t stop here. Next we’re going to investigate a number of pending applications that impact mesh networking technology—another area with an extremely active open development community and with tremendous potential. We’ll be asking you to help us again soon. Stay tuned!

Each of the 6 3D printing patents listed above has a link requesting prior art. The EFF is harnessing the power the crowd to complete their mission.

Accused of Stealing, 3D Printing Design Marketplace 3DLT Apologizes

3DLT 3D Printing Stolen Designs

Yesterday, Wired reported that a new 3D printing design marketplace called 3DLT was accused of selling stolen merchandise, i.e., designs, on its site.

Designer and co-founder of Nervous System, Jessica Rosencrantz, was surprised to learn that some of her fashion designs were being sold on 3DLT. Wired interviewed Rosencrantz:

“They never contacted us,” she says. “I had never heard of them until someone sent me the link last night to ask me if it was legitimate.”

The designs at issue are five of 3DLT’s fashion offerings (until recently, the entire fashion category). “They changed the names and descriptions but are using our images,” says Rosencrantz, “They claim to have the STL files for these designs, but I guarantee they do not. The last design they show — ‘circle necklace’ (our name ‘Radiolaria Necklace’) — isn’t even 3-D printed.”

Today, 3DLT CEO Pablo Arellano Jr. issued an apology on the site.

3DLT.com is currently in private beta. The site is not yet live and we are still testing the platform. We recently had an issue where the eCommerce portion of our site was activated and exposed to the public. Some of the products and images on the site were being used as placeholders and were not approved for use. These products and images have been removed from our site. Two orders were placed. The users have been contacted, informed of the issue and will be refunded any monies due.

We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused. We take this situation seriously and will ensure that upon launch, all of our designer onboarding processes are clearly documented and available for public viewing, including our process for vetting design files.

We apologize again for any inconvenience and have put the site on hold until our development team fixes the matter.

So was this simply an innocent mistake? It definitely calls attention to the issues of copyright and piracy in 3D printing.

Copyright Law, DMCA, and 3D Printing: A Detailed Whitepaper

Copyright and 3D Printing

Michael Weinberg has published an extensive whitepaper about the potential impact of Copyright Law on the emerging 3D printing industry.

3D printing provides an opportunity to change the way we think about the world around us. It merges the physical and the digital. People on opposite sides of the globe can collaborate on designing an object and print out identical prototypes every step of the way. Instead of purchasing one of a million identical objects built in a faraway factory, users can customize pre-designed objects and print them out at home. Just as computers have allowed us to become makers of movies, writers of articles, and creators of music, 3D printers allow everyone to become creators of things.

3D printing also provides an opportunity to reexamine the way we think about intellectual property. The direct connection that many people make between “digital” and “copyright” is largely the result of a historical accident. The kinds of things that were easiest to create and distribute with computers – movies, music, articles, photos – also happened to be the types of things that were protected by copyright. Furthermore, it happened to be that the way computers distribute things – by copying – was exactly the behavior that copyright regulated. As a result, copyright became an easy way to (at least attempt to) control what people were doing with computers.


In the whitepaper, Weinberg explains how copyright law and the DMCA will apply to 3D printing. He also describes the first case of copyright infringement: the Penrose triangle.

Penrose Triangle 3D Printing

The story of the first 3D printing-related copyright takedown request is a case in point. A designer named Ulrich Schwanitz created a 3D model for an optical illusion called a “Penrose triangle.” He uploaded his design to a website, Shapeways, that allows designers to sell 3D printed objects and invited the public to purchase a copy in the material of their choice. He also, for better or worse, both claimed that creating this design was a massive design achievement and refused to tell anyone else how he made the object.

As is often the case on the internet, shortly thereafter another designer, Thingiverse user artur83, uploaded a Penrose triangle with the comment:

Inspired by Ulrich Schwanitz’s ‘challenge’
about the “Impossible Penrose Triangle”
I thought I’d give it a try.
Looks pretty neat.

Unlike Shapeways, the website Thingiverse is built around sharing design files. As a result, because it was now up on Thingiverse anyone could download the design, understand how it worked, and print out their own version at home.

Schwanitz did not appreciate artur83′s behavior and sent a request to Thingiverse that the model be removed. [16] Thingiverse complied, but eventually public outcry convinced Schwanitz to dedicate his design to the public domain and retract the takedown request.

Weinberg continues in his whitepaper to describe the difference between useful and creative objects, licensable and non-licensable designs. He concludes that online communities will have a great amount of influence on how copyright policy is enacted.

Until there is better legal clarity, cultural clarity is the best way to protect the development of 3D printing.

Read the full whitepaper called What’s the Deal with Copyright and 3D Printing?.