MakerBot Files Patents, Internet Goes Crazy

patent

In the past month, a few patent applications from MakerBot were published, and like everything tangentially related to the prodigal son of the 3D printer world, the Internet arose in a clamor that would be comparable only to news that grumpy cat has died. That’s just an analogy, by the way. Grumpy cat is fine.

The first patent, titled, Three-dimensional printer with force detection was filed on October 29th, 2013. It describes a 3D printer with a sensor coupled to the hot end able to sense a contact force between the nozzle and build plate. It’s a rather clever idea that will allow any 3D printer to perform software calibration of the build plate, ensuring everything is printed on a nice, level surface. Interestingly, [Steve Graber] posted an extremely similar design of a bed leveling probe on October 6th, 2013. In [Steve]‘s video, you can see his bed level probe doing just about everything the MakerBot patent claims, all while being uploaded to YouTube before the patent application.

When it rains it pours, and the Quick-release extruder patent application, filed on October 28, 2013, bears this out. It claims an extruder that includes, “a bistable lever including a mechanical linkage to the bearing, the bearing engaged with the drive gear when the bistable lever is in a first position and the bearing disengaged from the drive gear when the bistable lever is in a second position.” Simple enough, a lever with two positions, where one presses a bearing against a drive gear, and the other position disengages the bearing from a drive gear. Here’s something that was published on Thingiverse in 2011 that does the same thing. Hugely famous RepRap contributor [whosawhatsis] has weighed in on this as well.

It is important to note that these are patent applications. Nothing has been patented yet. The US Patent and Trademark Office does seem to have a lot of rubber stamps these days, so what is the average Internet denizen to do? Here are easy to follow, step-by-step instructions on how to notify the USPTO of prior art. Remember, just because prior art does not completely invalidate a patent application’s claims doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send it in. It is a patent examiner’s job to review the prior art.

So there you go. MakerBot applies for patents, people complain, but not to the USPTO. Highly relevant video and transcription below.

Annelise: Annilise here again with episode three of the second season of MakeBot TV. So, one of the things you’ve probably heard us talk about before here at MakerBot is the power of sharing. But what exactly do we mean by that? Well, at MakerBot we follow a production model called open source. In the open source world, developers share the backend knowledge of their product with the public. And if anyone in the community makes an improvement upon that work, that progress gets folded back into production. And what happens when everyone is sharing in that sort of way is that improvements happen at a much faster rate. Because we’re all working on it together. Simple and beautiful. I talked to Bre a bit about how he got into open source.

Bre: For me personally, I got into open source by being a teacher. I would take my lesson plans and put them up on Geocities back in the day and other teachers would do the same thing. Because we were sharing, it lightened the load for everybody. If you had a lesson I hadn’t done yet, I could start where you left off, and use your curriculum as a basis for by curriculum. And it meant that we saved time and built a community.

When we started MakerBot, we knew we were going to be open source hardware. We were inspired by Arduino, and we were open source software nerds. So, we knew the idea if we could make it and share it, we’d get more back from it. And I think this is something we learned as kids, that sharing is good, that if you share something you get more back from it, but we forget this as adults. So, with open source hardware we’re back to that. When you get a MakerBot, you’re not just getting a machine, you’re getting the knowledge of how it works. You’re getting the information about everything that puts it together. So if you want to modify it, or if you just want to learn about it, if you want to hack it, you can do it.

When you build on open source hardware, you’re standing on the shoulders of giants. And then you’re letting other people stand on your shoulders. And then, if you want, you can stand on those people’s shoulders. So it’s kind of a standing on the shoulders of giants Möbius strip if we all participate.

We’re at an interesting time where if you want to build this future, if you wan to solidify the future where open source is the norm, you have to support open source by participating. You have to get into it, you have to support companies that do open source, cause I want to live in that future where we share things and the world is a better place for it.

Annelise: And that’s a wrap for this week. Let me know what you guys think about open source by tweeting to @makerbotTV. And don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube or iTunes. Next week, we’re heading up to Boston to meet with a group of students who have been frosting cupcakes with our MakerBot. Until then, keep it awesome.

 

 

Comments

  1. Nitpicker Smartyass says:

    I am not a fan or even a friend of MakerBot, my contacts with them have been very discouraging.
    That having said, I do not see any evil in their approach of applying for patents. Maybe – I repeat for those with a short attention span – maybe they are just using the patent system for what it was invented for: Documenting development and providing details to everyone wanting to improve designs. The web isn’t the only, and surely it isn’t the best, place to do such things.
    Should I repeat “maybe”? Or is giving a company the benefit of a doubt evil already?

    • whitequark says:

      If that’s their goal, why bother sending an application to USPTO (where it will largely remain in obscurity) rather than, you know, writing a blog post?

      • Spacedog says:

        I never liked makerbot from day 1, first time I saw them was at a security conf in 2010, They were showing off an early cupcake prototype as if they had single handedly invented 3D printing. I asked about the reprap open source 3D printer and the guy went red and excused himself. Every time I saw them since they were always talking smack about other 3D printers to people new to were new to the concept.

        It was only until I build my own reprap that I learned how they worked and that they were all basically the same. Makerbot launched their Replicator 2 to much fanfaire and publicity, they sold the advertised the machine stating .1mm layer height as the deciding factor. despite having a normal extruder, layer height is an entirely software dictated property (how much you move the nozzle between layers. the x/y resolution is determined by the hole in the nozzle) they closed the design of the enclosure. at the Open Hardware Summit, Bre Pettis explained that they were only closing the case design to protect their brand from copycats, and that all electronics and components were and would be as open source as they always have been. He said that the backlash from the internets was disproportionate and unwarranted. During this time Pettis had gutted the company of any founding members loyal to open source. he hired a new lawyer who updated the terms and conditions of Thingiverse with a clause that said that besides user specified license Makerbot own everything posted to thingiverse, and have a right to sell it. the reaction was the ‘Occupy Thingiverse’ where people uploaded cubes with a message of protest, The lawyer posted a message to address concerns, claiming that the change was for nothing more than standard service hosting, any followup questions were deleted. Since then Makerbot Sold out to 3D systems, one of the most litigious established companies who used software patents on industrial 3D printing to delay the release of the FORM1 steriolithography 3D Printer.

        There is a huge lesson to be learned from Makerbot, The story of the companies success is a fable of exploitation of the open source community, it’s volunteers and it’s reputation as a force for positive change. Before giving out support to a project, we need to collectively demand a legal guarantee for openess not only in the present, but also in the future.

        Adrian Bower, invented the home 3D printer with more ambition and optimism than Makerbot ever had, He seeded Makerbot with money from his own pocket. The guy remains modest and sells a small kit business, just happy to have made a difference, but what Pettis did was a pure scumbag move IMO, Bower deserved better.

        • daid303 says:

          As for the 0.1mm layer heights as standard when they introduced the Replicator 2.
          We where doing that on our Ultimakers for maybe a year already when they released that. So nothing special there…

          As for patents, at Ultimaker we’re looking into that right now. Simply put, we most likely need something to undermine the whole system and create a MAD situation. Where suing any OpenSource 3D printer will guarantee destruction. But like the OpenInnovationNetwork for linux.

          But holy hell, I’m only learning now how broken the system is. Prior art on a blog? Hardly worth much, as it’s date&time is not safe from tampering. Prior art? Needs to be older then a YEAR before the application. That’s crazy shit.
          System is pretty much designed so the only thing that protects you from patents are patents.

          • Dan says:

            I would assume that anyone selling a product could produce sales records, receipts and other information that would prove existence of an item better than a blog post. The USPTO gets cranky about prior art, even if it’s not a filed patent. Anyone who can prove prior art should certainly contact the USPTO with their information.

          • Sean says:

            I once had the chance to speak to a patent lawyer, who was kind (and frank) enough to explain the dirty tricks used in the industry to push patents through and keep them as broad as possible. I was sort of impressed, in a bad way!

            I’ve since moved to a country that doesn’t have or recognize patents. It turns out the consequences of patent law weighed more heavily on me than the consequences of not having any recognized intellectual property at all.

            I recognize that neither extreme is perfect, but designing things is fun again here.

    • Martin Demling says:

      Yeah, it will certainly help the 3D printing development if a single company gets to increase cost to competitors for the next few years. /s
      Seriously: today a patent usually contains very little details to be as broad as possible and to not give away useful information (e.g. parameters of a process). The excuse “maybe they want some serious documentation” is not “evil”, but ridiculous.

    • vic says:

      Makerbot posted an article vaunting whpthomas’ design *on their own website* : http://www.makerbot.com/blog/2013/02/22/replicator-2-extruder-alternative-some-spring-in-your-step/ . And now they’re patenting it. I think this might dispel any doubts you may still have.

    • Blue Footed Booby says:

      @Nitpicker Smartyass
      That is not the original intended purpose of the patent system. It was a means of granting a temporary monopoly on a novel design to the inventor to allow said inventor to profit from the inventions, under the reasoning that this would provide an incentive for innovation.

      You can argue whether this is in practice an incentive for anything good. You can argue that the patent system has been perverted or corrupted. You can argue that this particular thing should not have been granted a patent.

      You *cannot* argue that patents were not originally a legal mechanism for restricting use of inventions, or that they were primarily for documentation or reproducibility. That quite simply isn’t true.

    • Mark says:

      You don’t need to apply for a patent to “document” an invention; an inventino disclosure is sufficient for that, and free. The only reason to apply for a patent over a disclosure is that you intend to sue someone.

  2. Truth says:

    The USPTO will probably grant the patents, since it gets funding on granted patents and gets no money from rejected patents. They will fail at a later date on appeal. The way that the US patent system is broken by design.

    • alchemist says:

      I agree, the patent office will probably issue the patent, over the past several years, the uspto has changed their directive, less on verifying validity and more on issuing and charging more. the uspto new policy is to issue patents and leave it to the courts to decide validity, and normally that falls to who has more money and better lawyers.

    • Waterjet says:

      First to file. Makebot can take all these published, innovative open source ideas and patent them. They then own them. Open source just became private property. “Fuck you, OS community.” -Makerbot/Stratasys

      • John says:

        Not correct as prior art is provable.

        • Waterjet says:
          • Winter says:

            Your own words: “Makebot can take all these ***published***, innovative open source ideas and patent them.”

            If it’s published then it’s by definition prior art and thus not patentable.

          • hpux735 says:

            Prior art is still applicable. First to file just means that those that invented the prior art probably couldn’t get their own patent.

          • Waterjet says:

            http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2013/03/16/a-brave-new-patent-world-first-to-file-becomes-law/id=37601/

            The USPTO summarizes the changes that go into effect on March 16, 2013 as follows:

            (1) Convert the U.S. patent system from a ‘‘first to invent’’ system to a ‘‘first inventor to file’’ system; (2) treat U.S. patents and U.S. patent application publications as prior art as of their earliest effective filing date, regardless of whether the earliest effective filing date is based upon an application filed in the United States or in another country; (3) eliminate the requirement that a prior public use or sale be ‘‘in this country’’ to be a prior art activity; and (4) treat commonly owned or joint research agreement patents and patent application publications as being by the same inventive entity for purposes of 35 U.S.C. 102, as well as 35 U.S.C. 103. These changes in section 3 of the AIA are effective on March 16, 2013, but apply only to certain applications filed on or after March 16, 2013.

      • Andrew says:

        I guess I don’t see the problem. If MakerBot DOESNT do this they’re setting themselves up for a world of pain down the line. A patent troll firm could easily make a business model of monitoring the MakerBot site/repo and filing patents for everything they see. At some future date, they can bleed MakerBot dry in drawn out litigation.

      • Isaac Shannon says:

        In the US, they have one year to patent from the date of the public disclosure, after that it is public domain. They cannot file the patent in the EU anymore, there is no grace period.
        http://web.mit.edu/tlo/www/community/preserving_patent_rights.html

        However because others have publicly disclosed the invention, before Makerbot, it’s in the hands of lawyers and people sending info to the USPTO for prior art.

        It’s important to remember that a patent does NOT protect an idea, it isn’t even a guarantee that you will successfully sue someone stealing your IP. It’s all about lawyers…

    • Greenaum says:

      That is completely messed up. How about simply charging companies for every application? You could even have a sliding scale to help small inventors, where a few patents are cheap, but many cost more money. If you set the scale really high at the high end, it might discourage patent-spamming. Though there are companies set up entirely dedicated to patent spamming. Sure big industry would complain, but maybe there’d be a bit less theft.

      It’s amazing that the story of the poor inventor, ripped off by a big company, is so old and well-known, yet it still happens today. Probably more than ever. I know many Western governments are basically available to hire for cash, and a price for policies, but it’d be nice to see a *bit* of democracy. And voting for one of two basically identical parties isn’t really that democratic.

      There was an election in the UK recently, and it reminded me. So many people vote for a party they don’t like or support, just to prevent the “even worse” party from getting into power. People are basically all voting for second-worst. It’s about time somebody fixed that. All the rich and powerful have vested interests in the current system, even if it serves against most of the individual people’s best interests.

      • Blue Footed Booby says:

        In practice, filing a patent costs thousands of dollars due to legal fees. You will add zeros to that price tag if you actually have to go to court to defend the patent. As it stands, adding fees to the patent application itself would at best be a drop in the bucket compared to the existing costs. At worst they’d exacerbate the problem, further favoring huge corporations.

        Ultimately, I think the US’s mess of a patent system is only a symptom of a larger problem: corporations are able to devote their immense resources to lobbying the government to enact changes (whether through laws, executive orders, or appointment of interested parties to important government positions) that favor them to the detriment of their competition.

        Talking about the patent system like it’s the chief dragon to slay plays into the hands of the people who made it that way. They know they can corrupt any reforms that don’t involve radically de-fanging their ability to influence the government.

        Ask not who watches the watchmen; the answer should be *you.*

  3. Joee says:

    What’s wrong with wanting to protect your work? As long as they don’t patent “6 walled printing device” like another fruit company would, I think it’s a smart move before another company comes a long and does patent a “slightly different” design

    • MJD says:

      Because it’s not their work. Also, patents are poison to open source work, and makerbot does not have a good enough reputation to be trusted with them.

      • Static says:

        Patents aren’t poison to open source. The holder of a patent can choose to allow others to use it. The holder of the patent holds the rights to the patent. There is nothing keeping me from patenting my idea and gifting it to the world.

        • Torque says:

          You’d be Naivé if you expect a company like Makerbot to do that.
          And all the similar situations where such was promised, they ended up pulling a bait&switch

    • aoeuidhtns- says:

      Yea its what he’s trying to do and along comes makerbot, patenting someone else’s work. He’s got a post about it: https://plus.google.com/+Whosawhatsis/posts/BipgwyhE7D5

    • MRE says:

      Also, the mechanism described is the same as can be found on wire feed welders all over the world, for the last 50 years. None of the welding companies bothered to file patents on it. Why should makerbot do so for 3D printers?
      Patents on fundamental mechanisms which have been in public domain use for ages just does not make sense. Imagine this:
      The wheel currently has no patent. but if someone invents a new type of vehicle which does not need wheels, and some OTHER person slapped wheels on that vehicle anyway, they can now patent the idea of slapping wheels on the vehicle. Just replace “wheel” with “spring loaded latch mechanism for extruded materials” and “vehicle” with “3D printer” and you have the full patent description.

      • Montaray Jack says:

        Not just welders, this feed mechanism is common for feeding stock into a punchpress as well, for round or coiled stock. We had feedback mechanisms to detect the slack to stop the inertia of the coil from feeding too much on just about every press. So I’m not too sure that the force sensor is novel either.

        Patent # 317330 is the basis of this feed mechanism, issued May 5, 1885

        • Montaray Jack says:

          Patent # 2914643 is also applicable, Wire feeder mechanism , “apparatus for the vacuum evaporation of metallic wire continuously fed to a heating element, and more particularly to an improved feeder mechanism adapted to supply wire to a crucible in a consistent and positive manner. ” issued Nov 24, 1959

  4. Addidis says:

    Kinda hard not to look down on had for this post.

    • Addidis says:

      Really feels like the author is discounting the ‘internet’s’ (read inventor of said device douchebag company patented) right to be upset their work is being blatantly stolen.

      Douchebag company steals the little guys work to try to capitalize on it.

      Now that woulda been a good title imho.

    • A lot of the influential people in the Maker community are actually in it to make money/make a living out of it, with blogs, shops, Kickstarters etc, so are basically bed-fellows with Bre Pettis and Makerbot. They hang out at the same Maker conferences. They have been pretty sympathetic to Makerbot and unwilling to criticize, even though it is obvious Makerbot are trampling all over Open Source. They are probably thinking, “yeah, Open Source is all very nice, but I’d like to be a millionaire like Bre Pettis too”.

      Then a lot of companies claiming to be selling “Open Source Hardware” are actually not, they have non-commercial licenses, and seek to extract royalties from people using “their design”, even though copyright doesn’t apply to hardware designs.

      Basically, don’t expect people who run a business or are paid a salary writing about Maker stuff to criticize each other much, since they are all trying to make money the same way.

  5. mark429 says:

    So Should I buy a FlashForge 3d Printer to punish Makerbot? I would get an Ultimaker or Lulzbot but 1299 with prime shipping is very tempting..

    • Sheepdog says:

      I’ve dealt with Lulz and Ultimaker… Once dialed in, both can print well, between them, I would get the Ultimaker though. While neither is what I would call fast, the Ultimaker doesn’t lose it’s calibration every time you move it and the nozzle is less fickle.

      That said, I’d build my own, again. They aren’t really that complex and you can save hundreds to thousands of dollars.

  6. fartface says:

    Yeah, Makerbot has nothing to do with the Maker movement and they seem to be the embodiment of everything that is wrong Their rampant patent filing and the way they act to customers does nothing but make you want to avoid them.

    And honestly, they used to be the only choice, but now they are not only one of many, but not the best choice. They are overpriced and under deliver compared to some of the newer printers out there.

  7. Ginsublade says:

    they can patent all they want, I think the HAD readers know they can build and use any patent they like as long as you don’t try to sell it or make ALOT of money with it….

    • Winter says:

      The problem is that a lot of HAD readers live in the US which doesn’t have a private use exemption in the their patent law.

      Of course there’s basically no way private use patents infrigments can be prosecruted. But it does preclude people from blogging about it or submitting it to HAD.

  8. Junkjet says:

    I realise it might be a little nieve, but isn’t it possible this is intended as a defensive patent? It’s a concept that comes up in programming from time to time, patents filed purely to prevent someone else trying to patent it and then taking you to court. Having a patent doesn’t prevent them from releasing the designs under creative commons or something, it just gives them an official document in case someone *else* starts throwing lawsuits around

    Of course they don’t seem to have actually said this and you’d expect a pretty quick response if it were the case, but it is a possibility

    • Defensive patents are those you file to have some “ammunition” in case some of your competitors want to hurt you (think Samsung vs. Apple). This is some kind of arms race which does not help anyone. If you want to prevent that some evil company files for a patent you just publish the invention (which creates prior art).There are specialized publications which serve this purpose (and charge much lower fees that any patent application will cost).

    • Greenaum says:

      Hm, perhaps a foundation is needed that does just that. Same way GPL prevents people stealing stuff by copyright (sort of). Have a foundation that patents everything for the good of the public. Or makes it impossible for anyone else to patent, would be better.

      Alternatively, what, a “prior art repository”? Where people publish their ideas, so nobody can patent them later.

      I’m not an expert. But it’s nice the public are getting more involved with stuff like this, it will lead to change soon enough. Even though currently intellectual property has been abused by corporate pirates. I think the patent process depends in large part on the fact that they operate quietly in their own field. Getting the public involved, or at least, the informed public, might pull things back from the current nest of abuse it’s turned into.

    • Sheepdog says:

      Do you know why there were/are no windows on 3d printers?
      The company who owns Makerbot patented them. Yes… Windows. They also own a MASSIVE patent folder in general which they used to limit competition over the last 20 years. Many of which are only now expiring. Stratasys has no interest in open source.

      As for Makerbot itself, they tried to make everything uploaded to Thingiverse their property.

      Still think this is a safety precaution?

  9. I am just an evil maker and will use any design I feel like for my personal projects, if I decided to go commercial with something in the future then that is what the lawyers are for, in the mean time, hack on people!!

  10. scuffles says:

    I’ve had a low opinion of Makerbot from the start just based on their pricing. That opinion only went lower after they were done suckling at the opensource teet and closed sourced their printers. Opinion dropped even lower when they sold out to Stratasys…… at this point I don’t think my opinion of them could go any lower but this news certainly doesn’t come as a surprise.

  11. John says:

    Sadly the US has made this the way of the world now. IPR will get you funding and increase the company share price. The people that patents were originally designed for cannot make use of the system any more, your ideas are just stolen and you cannot take on the big boys, they just walk all over you. Patents are only real once they have been challenged and won, they are only useful if you get money from licensing them. That is the way it was designed to be but since it became a way of increasing the value of a company it just ruined the concept. It is a lot easier and much cheaper to file every possible concept you can and pay no heed to whose it is or if it exists already and let someone else decide it isn’t valid than it is to make a good product and offer good service which is the normal way of building a company.

  12. Tom P. says:

    Even if these patents were approved, it would mean nothing until their validity was tested in court.

    • vic says:

      To the contrary, a patent is a powerful asset to use and coerce licensing fees out of and stifle competitors. Challenging a patent is an extremely costly, lengthy and risky process. You never know what the outcome will be, especially in the US where patent-friendly jurisdictions will grant ridiculous claims. That’s why even the big guys, like Microsoft, will rather pay a licensing fee than challenge an obviously invalid patent.

    • Waterjet says:

      At a 7 figure pricetag to “successfully” litigate and “win”. http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=SSYS 4.68 Billion marketcap. You really think a lone open source contributor is going to spend a million bucks just to invalidate their “stolen by others and patented in other’s name” idea? For what? No economical upside. Joe inventor has a full time job, he just wanted to subtly improve 3d printers so he releases his improvement. Stratasys takes it and patents it, profits off it AND prevents others from using said invention for 20 years. Even from the original inventor, unless they challenge it in court.

      That’s fucked up.

      • John says:

        There is no need for the open source inventor to challenge. If the original idea is in the public domain before the patent was filed and the idea is of enough use to someone with money then it will be challenged and lose.

        These things do not concern anyone that is not making money out of a patented idea, there is nothing to stop anyone using anything in a patent provided they do not make money from it. If you want to build and sell a printer with a heated cabinet all you need to do is build it without the heater and provide information about how to make it heated. There are ways round most patents if you think about it enough. A printer with a fume extraction system that filters and circulates the air becomes a printer with a heated cabinet if you remove the filter and stick a heater in there.

        • Paul says:

          The cost to challenge is too high for most people.

        • hpux735 says:

          That’s ridiculous. Why should someone hobble their product to get around a patents from stolen ideas?

          We’ve got a makerbot at work. I hate that piece of crap. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a print fail on it, then I go home and print it out just fine on my reprap (prusa i3), which cost 1/4 as much as the makerbot.

          • John says:

            Well if people didn’t buy them they would not file patents so who is to blame here? :)

        • Waterjet says:

          Not all patents are easily worked around.

          As of March 16, 2013, the U.S. patent system moved from a ‘‘first to invent’’ system to a ‘‘first inventor to file’’ system.

          • Greenaum says:

            Ah, FFS!

          • Greenaum says:

            In fact if I was rich I’d have a “stupid patent day” and patent knives and forks, bricks, windows. The wheel wasn’t “obvious” until someone invented it. If I get in quick I might be able to take Ford for millions.

      • Isaac S. says:

        Lots of companies ignore existing patents and build the stuff anyways. It is just as expensive to enforce a patent as to challenge it, and if you lose your patent is absolutely worthless.

  13. The dark side of open source. A few brilliant minds collaborate and create something great, a few noobs make it insanely popular, $$$$$ , and the game is on. Thank you for developing and improving this product/ program/ design for me. I will now protect it by owning it. Open Source is…….doomed. we will stop contributing, stop sharing, hide in our caves and be selfish productive. Bunkers.

    Think of open source as baby photos on Face book, now face book owns them and wants to use the pics on their own brand of baby formula.

    Sorry. I am irked by the whole patent idea. Is there an underhanded way that we as a community can patent something vital either literal or figurative to Makerrbot? Ba

    • John says:

      I’m with you on this, Patents worked when they were invented then very quickly they were abused and since then are a waste of time. If you have an idea then first to market takes the cake home and let them fight over the remains.

      The open source thing is a real puzzler though, it would be a real shame to lose that resource, it is the best in the world by a long way.

  14. ursussiara says:

    It’s really a fuckin shame to see this kind of thing going on. I believe that the Open Source approach to solving problems and over coming challenges IS and will be the key to mankind’s future. Of course, those that don’t want to share, don’t have to. But, They can do all the fucking work by themselves. What’s pissed me off about MB in the past wasn’t their stance, open or close, but their lack of adherence to a set of stated principles (It doesn’t count when you talk out both sides of your ass).
    I don’t buy the notion of defensive patenting given the apparent greed of the company.
    “It’s Open Source, free for All. We just want to own the legal rights to it”
    Blow Me.
    If it is indeed true that they are seeking patents based on other peoples work, then that is something that should not go unchallenged. Indeed, they should be fought and punished. BEFORE a patent is granted. I would encourage everyone who believes in Open Source as a philosophy to do what ever they can to raise awareness of this abomination and to encourage those who are having their freely shared ideas stolen to fight for recognition of their contributions and any share of the profits resulting from the same.
    “We’re at an interesting time where if you want to build this future, if you wan to solidify the future where open source is the norm, you have to support open source by participating. You have to get into it, you have to support companies that do open source,..”
    Yeah and companies that give all that lip about being Open Source need to act like it.

  15. ursussiara says:
  16. lee says:

    “So there you go. MakerBot applies for patents, people complain, but not to the USPTO.”

    I’d like some disclosure from HAD. Are you guys received or have you received money and/or free hardware from MakerBot? Not only is this statement untrue (people have already sent in articles of prior art), but seems very biased. Of all places, I’d think you guys would be more sensitive to the damaging precedents that they are setting in the hacker/maker/open source world.

    • Greenaum says:

      I think the quoted statement is intended to motivate people to complain to the USPTO. This article in general is critical of Makerbot.

    • > Are you guys received or have you received money and/or free hardware from MakerBot?

      No. Hackaday does not accept money, hardware, gifts, or anything else. Ever. You honestly have no idea how much we could sell out, but don’t. We’re held – and hold ourselves – to higher ethical and journalistic standards than the New York Times. This has more to do with my feelings for the Times, but you get the idea. Think this is normal? It’s not. The stories I could tell about other ‘hacker blogs’ that rhyme with a yard instrument used for gathering leaves….

      > Not only is this statement untrue

      That is false. Parse this: MakerBot applies for patents (true), people complain (you should see the reddit threads), but not to the USPTO (there is no evidence of people doing what they should, and notify the USPTO of prior art.” That statement, to the best of my knowledge, is true,

      > but seems very biased

      I’ve posted links to MakerBot patenting prior art released as open source hardware, and a transcribed a video where Bre says MakerBot is dedicated to open source. I have made the one mistake no writer should make: assume your audience can read between the lines.

      • lee says:

        I appreciate the clarification. I’m sure you guys could sell out. Your opinions throw a LOT of weight with readers like myself. Perhaps you have said this before in other comments, but it means a lot to me to know that this is the case. I’d love to naively read between the lines, but as Makerbot has clearly shown, even business which *may* have started out with the best intentions (a point which I am seriously doubting now) will betray the people that made them and the values that made them popular when the numbers roll in. Virtually all journalism has been replaced by propaganda — I consider it no small thing that you guys have stuck to your guns.

        While I don’t expect that you’ve read every blog on the internet (given the explosion of postings in one day) some people are indeed trying to go beyond just “complaining”. This from Terence @ OpenBeam: http://www.openbeamusa.com/blog/2014/5/22/stay-classy-makerbot

        I grant that there is a lot of complaining on reddit, but that’s more-or-less the purpose of the site.

      • If you read the articles you link to, you will see that several people have filed prior art submissions with the USPTO, and even has screen shots and advice for people to do the same.

        I also think you underestimate public campaigning, it can make a difference. For someone who publishes and engages with the public, I would have thought you would be more sensitive to that.

  17. Makerbot wants people to support open source, so my dream of getting a Makerbot, is now a dream of getting a Ultimaker

  18. JimBob says:

    The first time I saw the price of Make magazine, I knew they were in it for the money. Then I started seeing overpriced “Make” items at Radio Shack. I never believed any of the “higher purpose” claptrap. Which is fine-I believe in capitolism; but at least be honest about it. This is why I feel no guilt whatsoever buying Chinese Arduino clones. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

  19. AndrewC says:

    As of March 16, 2013, patents are first to file in the US, so it doesn’t matter if there’s any prior art on Youtube or any other media.

  20. John says:

    When will humanity get over the nonsensical and greedy notion that ideas can be “owned”? When, if, we do, a golden age of knowledge and innovation will surely follow.

    • Greenaum says:

      The idea was to reward inventors, and let them make some money out of their ideas. Obviously that went wrong somewhere.

      The basic answer is corporations have to do whatever’s most profitable, and morals don’t have a cash value. Any company that sacrifices profits for morals will be beaten in it’s field by another company that just goes after profit. If the companies are publically owned, then share buyers will buy the evil one, not the decent one. Particularly now since the majority of share transactions are decided by computer programs.

      Modern stock-market capitalism is incompatible with morality. It also favours self-defeating short-termism. The system is fucked, and that’s not even considering the enormous, growing, rich / poor divide.

      If we want any better, we either need to invent a better form of society, and somehow get it put in place, or we need a whole shitload of regulation. Which rich scum and their idiot lapdogs in the media have turned into a dirty word. “Regulation”, I mean, not “shitload”.

  21. Satoer says:

    I’ve also designed a quick release filament feeder half a year ago :(
    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:159159
    This is very sad

    • Whatnot says:

      You can use patented stuff as long as you don’t commercialize it and sell it.

      So come to think of it, what this patent stuff does is force people to make their own 3D printer instead of buying one I guess.

      BTW, you can also just go to another country where it’s not patented and sell it there.

      • Robert Eastwood says:

        On the topic of Leaving the USA

        I do not concede the ability to live or work inside the USA due to illegal actions by requirement of money, or submitting to consolidated money that claims to be able to control information or production for purpose of monopoly, against the ideas of copywrite and patent that is created to give a fair wage to an innovator, not to control innovation and stifle creativity and contribution.

        The better answer would be to fix the system that allows for ‘large corporate monetary influences’ from trying to control the innovation and contributions of many people. For people to have to Leave the USA would be to say that the Corporate Person can have control of what is not theirs, the systems that are meant to be available to all people in the USA.

        I would say they can Leave, since the various attempts to control information by using patents or copywrites as a form of censorship and wealth consolidation, against there intended purpose, is not going to be allowed to continue.

  22. Robert Eastwood says:

    For the three d printer I will be building some day, knowing the height of the starting surface for calibration was part of the build.

    Although the way I was going to do it was 9 thin wires in a square inch, that would brush the surface where if the outside 8 did not make contact (slightly shorter) and inside wire did make contact(slightly longer) then it would be in balance, and could determine and adjust and or fill to create level starting situation..

  23. John T. says:

    Ran through about a 1/4 the comments.
    The whole thing about this is building things yourself.
    If someone else patents it for sale, why bother worrying with it?
    The whole idea is to build from the ground up. If everyone puts forth the effort to build it themself, then the patent is irrelevant. The patent shows the parts and product designs. It can be used as an instruction. It’s just a call for bragging rights and claims if you ask me.

    • Robert Eastwood says:

      Because there are guys in black rooms that reach into your computer and delete files or comments if they can claim you are infringing on a patent, (without due process or actions by courts) also often used to try to determine who can produce something and to try to maintain monopolies. Also used to burn books, and to disrupt use of printers and scanners, and not for copywrite claim, but to keep everyone in an area where they can be monitored and censored. They also change the content of various media distributed to some people, also illegal and a justification to remove them.

      They already have done it with Kindle, and all laptops have wirelesses, so the patent becomes a back door to suppress display or usage of any information by edict without courts, when used as another commodity based on who can pay the most lawyers.

      Of coarse, they might also try to censor information or try and disable various computer systems of someone that was explaining that to you, however that gives the rights to there removal.

      • enkiv2 says:

        Don’t confuse patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret. They are all very different forms of IP. (I don’t particularly agree with any of them in their typical uses, but none of them work the way you seem to think they do.) Do yourself a favor and read up on IP law, and on the differences between these tools (in terms of what they cover, how they are enforced, how they are registered — if at all, since neither copyrights nor trade secrets need be registered, and by what means they become invalidated).

        In many cases, these tools are mutually exclusive: you cannot file a copyright claim on the content of a patent, because all patents have their actual textual content in the public domain (a patent only protects the assignee from competitors implementing the method or mechanism the patent describes), nor can you claim trade secret on a patent (since trade secrets are invalidated the moment they become common knowledge, and trade secret protections are based on proof of reasonable effort to keep the information secret); trademarks can be held only on design patents (one example is the coke bottle shape) because trademarks cannot be held on long-form works — trademarked phrases rarely exceed five words; furthermore, trademark protection is lost if reasonable effort is not shown to keep the trademark from being used in a generic sense (which is what happened with asprin — originally a trademarked name by Bayer, now a generic term because courts decided that Bayer wasn’t paying enough attention). Copyright, trademark, and patent claims are weak to novelty: a sufficiently modified version of a work derived from that described by a copyright, trademark, or patent does not fall under those protections, and copyright and trademark claims are also extremely sensitive to recontextualization (fanfiction, which can feature both copyrighted and trademarked material, is typically sufficiently transformative that a legal claim cannot reasonably be made; satire is also typically sufficiently transformative, because intent counts toward transformation in the context of both trademark and copyright).

        You mentioned a particular case with regard to the Kindle: the famous deletion of free copies of 1984 because of the accidental use of a copyrighted and trademarked cover image. Arguably, this is the fault of Amazon (at several levels): Amazon built in a back door into every Kindle, failed to clear the cover images with legal, and responded in the least sensible way when a claim was made (they could have replaced every copy with a nearly identical copy without a cover image, since the content itself is in the public domain). This has nothing to do with wifi and everything to do with the fact that Amazon has shipped its machines with rootkits with the explicit intent to be capable of deleting material. This is not a problem in the case of a PC built by the consumer and running an OS of their choice, although pre-built machines with pre-installed OSes may in some cases be shipped with something equally nasty by the vendor; it’s actually an atypical problem (the only other high-profile case of this kind of thing was when Sony shipped all its music CDs with a hidden autorun partition that installed a rootkit — a mistake they never made again).

        IP law is part of civil law. Outside of large scale operations, law enforcement isn’t supposed to get involved (particularly in the case of things like copyright, wherein registration is neither required nor typical, or trade secret, wherein registration — to the extent that it puts the material into public record — would nullify the legal protection). FBI enforcement of copyright law is arguably illegitimate — but the FBI does many things that are arguably illegitimate, and copyright enforcement is hardly the worst or most important (nor does the FBI typically get involved with these cases). The normal case is that this occurs during a lawsuit.

        • Robert Eastwood says:

          heh, I should probable respond to your post, since you seem to have thought it out.

          However you have the core assumption that ‘law enforcement in secret’ will only do what is best for society, and not what is best to try and hold some power, or control society for any other agenda.

          The comparison of the difference between are thought process are so far away from each other, it really is not possible to respond to you. Your core axioms are different. You believe that power will do what is right with that power in secret.

          Your entire statement is predicated by the assumption that those in secret will do things ‘following some law’ I don’t need to know the difference between the different items, because that presumes they will follow the law, or allow for usage I use that is within my legal rights.

          You also presume other things, like that there is a choice of a ‘computer system’ that is not ‘on the grid’ and hackable illegally by various agencies. They spent billions in the 90s to move much of agency work to tech sectors.

          You believe we live in a society where there are people trying to advance or enforce within society based on law. I know they are doing it with only the regard for law they are forced to follow based on some effect of direct action against them if they don’t follow the law.

          You presume they care about what the law is, for you to say that I should learn it. I have followed the law, and that does not mean anything to them, that is an excuse to further limit most of society, while they continue to cheat, steal and various other activities.

          You probably have a different set of experiences then me, but I know for a fact they don’t care about the law, and that includes those that claim they are the people that enforce it, both private sector hired contractors, and governmental employees that claim to be doing some enforcement.

          And The Amazon 1984 thing was probably a Joke, or psyops, since the book was a about ‘a state mechanism’ changing history by altering items after they were printed.

          You probably read about it, to harm Amazon, when they were trying to tell you what the entire tech sector is doing in secret by showing you the capabilities in all the programs, and selecting the target of 1984. Then instead of the intended action of people knowing all the systems do the same thing, only Amazon was blamed. I could explain or go on and on about the various actions, but with your core axiom, you would say that people in power would not break the law to try and hold power. While at the same time you know they are lying to you. Cognitive dissidence.

          Amazon were probably the good guys, trying to tell people what the entire tech, business and governmental sector is doing, from network cards, CPUs, video cards, OS, Drivers, printers, and any company that claims some area as part of there feudal empire.

          Your core assumption is also often used by those that do things in secret, thinking they are helping society, when they are ignoring the actual issues they can not see as important due to there core axioms.

          Robert Eastwood

          • Dan says:

            Why don’t you try actually reading about the amazon 1984 fiasco before commenting.

            The facts are pretty simple.

            The e-book was cheap because it was not an official bok for digital distribution, think if it as a pirate copy.
            Amazon removed what was effectively an illegal file from people’s devices and gave them their money back.

            That a problem for people who think why should they pay again, and pay more… But is easily answered with the statement “you bought a dodgy copy the first time.

            Doubly crap for students, who list margin notes, but then they should probably have been studying from a specific version anyway…

            Quite why amazon had the ability to remotely remove content is still a bit weird, but no more weird than if you sign into iCloud and realise that apple can see where you are and remotely wipe your device etc. But a useful feature if you lust your phone at least!

            Nothing to do with cloak and dagger shadowy figures smoking in darkened corners if underground car parks waiting to meet their contact.

            And patently miles away from the topic.

    • dan says:

      The answer is simple.
      I’ve designed my own 3d printer, it is being built slowly, a lot of the parts are, or were a bit different from the “standard” parts, but would snap in to existing machines, almost as an upgrade. -I’m basically upgrading an existing printer to test designs for the creation of a new printer.

      In order to fund my printer building I made a concious decision to over buy materials and make multiples of the items that I needed, I’d make one, test it, ensure it worked as intended and then make and list more on ebay as fit in place upgrades for printers.

      The point is, that if I invent something, then I should be able to sell that product on whatever scale I like, either as a full time job for myself, just for some beer money or to help fund the continued development of designs that I am making.

      which is the funny thing really the whole patent system is made to protect innovators and ensure that those who are doing R&D spending hours making things, spending hundreds on materials of iterative designs, (99% of which might get thrown away) are protected from someone else coming along, taking their work, and selling their ideas without having put any time of effort into the development.

      open source changes that somewhat, when I release designs to the public I expect that those who can will copy either for themselves or for commercial development. those who can’t make it themselves (either through lack of tools or tooling, will want to buy the “thing” either from myself on ebay or from someone else.

      (i.e if I designed something, and I decide to release that source I am happy for others to copy for their own use, or for business use, or large or small scale commercial development. I’d state what I was happy with as a license term with the plans that I released)

      what has happened here however is that Makerbot, instead of just taking the design and making it available to lots of people buy just manufacturing it, have taken the “thing” and applied for a patent. IF granted in the UK I’d still be able to make myself but would not be able to make for sale, even though I’m the inventor, if I did make it for sale Makerbot could sue me, and then I’d have to prove in court at my expense that it was actually my design that they stole.

      worse still in the US (where this patent is filed) IF it is granted, you can’t even make it at home for personal use. -so if the original inventor lives in the US, and if the patent is granted, makerbot could effectivly take him to court for using his design in a printer that he made in the future whether for personal use or intended for sale.

      in short, yes the blog is about making stuff, patents can stop people making stuff.

  24. Galane says:

    So now Makerbot is being a patent troll like RAMBUS. Intel, Micron and other big players in the memory chip and CPU industries got together to design an open standard to succeed SDRAM. The design was to be without cost to anyone.

    One group of people took all the information, named themselves RAMBUS (as original as when VLSI in the late 80’s named themselves after Very Large Scale Integration) and quietly filed patents on the RAMBUS technology – then proceeded to make claims for royalties and filing lawsuits.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jimhandy/2013/12/13/rambus-vs-micron-who-really-won/

    The worst of it is that useless gang of trolls won! How any judge could see any merit in claims made by RAMBUS when they violated the original agreement by taking the plans and filing patents… So now those crooks will get rich off obsolete and useless memory technology.

    I wonder if anyone involved ever brought up the Selden patent? George Baldwin Selden filed a patent on the automobile, then demanded all automobile manufacturers pay him a license fee on every motor vehicle they made. The only one who wouldn’t back down was Henry Ford.

    That’s essentially what RAMBUS did, filed a patent on computer memory and expects every RAM manufacturer to pay up. Too bad there was nobody like Ford in this fight!

    • Robert Eastwood says:

      I patented, all language, and forms of communication, and am considering revoking all usage of such things, since I have not been paid. It should be noted, those trying to enforce patents or copywrites to censor or limit activities, are infringing on my Patents, and right of control over all actions that would effect communication of ideas and there implementation.

  25. enkiv2 says:

    It’s important to note that occasionally companies will file patent applications for things they know shouldn’t be patentable, just so that some competitor cannot later file an application for the same thing, get it granted, and drag the first company into patent litigation (since litigation is typically more expensive than settlement). It’s arguably better for a friendly company to file an application (putting prior art into the only place that patent attorneys reliably check) and then either fail to get it granted or fail to enforce the granted patent than for the same friendly company avoid applying and instead wait for some patent troll or more monopolistic company to file an application and crack down.

    I don’t know whether or not makerbot has a history of crack-downs. Whether or not these applications are good for the maker community depends highly upon whether or not makerbot is likely to enforce these. If you distrust them, the very best thing you can do is send examples of prior art to the patent office with regard to the application number and let them know that the application should not be granted on grounds of insufficient novelty! That way, makerbot’s patent will not be granted but the application will keep similar patents from being granted.

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