We think it is. Why? First, some background. Formlabs launched one of the most successful new 3D printers in recent memory with their Form 1 resin-based 3D printer. It's a device capable of 3D printing extremely high-resolution objects reliabily with a technique completely different from most of the other 3D printer manufacturers: photocuring resin with lasers.
The only trouble was, 3D Systems invented that technology some years ago and patented it. So Formlabs has a problem.
But the patent had expired, so Formlabs doesn't have a problem.
But 3D Systems has a new patent on a modified version of the original process. So Formlabs has a problem. Maybe.
3D Systems launched a lawsuit against Formlabs (and Kickstarter, by the way) earlier this year based on this patent.
What came of this lawsuit? Why haven't we heard the result? It's because the case was stayed in a South Carolina court. The court ordered a stay until September 3, 2013 because all participants in the case jointly requested it, because:
the parties state that Plaintiff and defendant Formlabs are currently engaged in settlement discussions.
So, there you have it. 3D Systems and Formlabs are in discussions. This could mean that the second patent is applicable to Formlabs' design. But what could be the outcome?
There are several possibilities, including:
- Formlabs licenses the necessary intellectual property from 3D Systems and pays a royalty for each machine sold
- No agreement is forthcoming and the case resumes
- Formlabs is acquired by 3D Systems
We'll have some thoughts on that last possibility soon.