We’ve already seen how the existing additive manufacturing big players hold many 3D printing patents which may prevent development of cheaper consumer models. In an effort to try and prevent this happening the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Ask Patents is acting together to challenge a Stratasys chocolate printing patent application.
EFF are saying that the application is not sufficiently inventive to receive a patent, and if granted means that every new material for 3D printing can have an exclusive patent.
Stratasys‘ patent details how the chocolate is heated while being printed and unused material is sent back to a reservoir for reuse. From the patent, describing the 3D printing method:
“An additive manufacturing system for printing a chocolate confection, the system comprising a platen, a recirculation loop configured to circulate a flow of a chocolate material, and further configured to maintain a temper of the chocolate material; and a print head the print head being configured to receive at least a portion of the chocolate material from the recirculation loop, and further configured to extrude and deposit the chocolate material onto the platen to print at least a portion of the chocolate confection based on the commands from a controller.” – Stratasys Patent Application US20120251688 A1
The EFF are asking for the public’s help in finding “prior art”, where documentation proves that a claim in the patent is not original. The legal procedure that they are using for this challenge is called a “pre-issuance submissions” and it allows 3rd parties to submit “prior-art” rebuttals against a claimed patent.
The EFF has teamed up with Ask Patents as this is a site where documents can be submitted to challenge a patent through “prior-art” and there are already several submissions from users. However, there is not much time left as the cut-off date for a challenge is April 4, 2013.