Remember the lawsuit against Formlabs launched by industry giant 3D Systems? It's been dismissed.
How do we know? A document posted this week reveals the official outcome of the case. The final word is this:
Plaintiff 3D Systems, Inc. and Defendant Formlabs Inc, hereby agree, as indicated by the signatures of their reactive counsels below, to entry of an Order dismissing all claims and counterclaims in this action with prejudice, with each party to bear all costs, expenses and attorney fees.
So the claims by 3D Systems of Formlabs using their intellectual property (patents) have been dismissed. But what does “with prejudice” mean? In legal terms, it means the case is considered final and no subsequent actions can be taken in this matter. In other words, the two parties have agreed to cease the action.
However, this typically means a behind-the-scenes settlement was agreed to, whereupon the parties petitioned the United States District Court judge to dismiss the case. What we don't know is the amount of the settlement and who paid who. It's highly likely Formlabs paid 3D Systems some amount, but it's likely less than originally demanded. Debate on the similarity of Formlabs methods to the patents could have been tricky, as it is often easy to show minor differences. Patents tend to be vague.
We've had conversations with high level 3D Systems staff who suggested having companies like Formlabs around might be a good thing as they promote the expansion of 3D printing technology in ways 3D Systems cannot achieve. So the goal was likely not to destroy Formlabs.
Going forward, this is an important milestone. First, it frees Formlabs to proceed with their corporate strategy and sales of their popular machine. Secondly, it sets a precedent for other resin-based 3D printer startups who use similar technological processes. We wonder, though, whether 3D Systems will approach the other companies demanding similar licensing fees. Depending on the magnitude of the undisclosed settlement, it may not be worth their time.