April 12, 2013 | By Julie Samuels

EFF and Partners Challenge Six 3D Printing Patent Applications

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!


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