In our community it’s certain that there will be many people with very strong views about patents. It’s fair to say that the patents system is at times not fit for purpose, with such phenomena as patent trolls, submarine patents, and patent war chests doing nothing but leading it into disrepute. So it’s interesting to read the words of 3D printer hotend manufacturer E3D, as they talk about why they feel the need to patent some of their inventions, and how they intend to proceed with them.
The result is a no-nonsense explanation of why their work being reproduced by overseas competitors has brought them to this point, and in short: they’re patenting very specific inventions rather than broad catch-alls, they are making what they call a legally binding promise not to enforce the patents against non-commercial or academic experimenters, and they will continue to open-source as much as they can.
Will it work for them, or is it the start of a slippery slope? We can see why the E3D folks have taken this step, and we hope that they will continue to act in a responsible manner. If not, as those who have followed the maker-oriented 3D printing business for a long time will know: treading the line between open-source and closed-source can be fraught with danger.