Ouch! EnvisionTEC has launched a patent infringement lawsuit against Massachusetts-based Formlabs.
Formlabs is a rapidly growing 3D printer company launched not too many years ago via a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign. Since the introduction of their original machine, the Form 1, the company has continued to refine their laser-based resin 3D printing system and now markets the Form 2, which has been positively received by many.
Meanwhile, EnvisionTEC has been producing very high-quality resin 3D printing gear for well over a decade, selling their machines to industry, primarily to the dental and jewelry industries, but also for prototyping. They currently market a broad line of equipment to meet many industry requirements.
And, apparently, they also happen to have a number of 3D printing patents, some of which, they allege, are being infringed by Formlabs. Their CEO, Al Siblani, explains:
EnvisionTEC has been inventing, developing, manufacturing and selling 3D printers, materials and other related technologies and services for nearly 15 years. Today, we hold numerous patents around the world covering a variety of our 3D printing products, methods and more. This intellectual property was researched and developed over many years by our innovative team of professionals and is invaluable to our business serving a variety of medical, professional and industrial markets around the world. We are committed to aggressively protecting our intellectual property in accordance with the laws of the countries in which we operate.
This is a setback for Formlabs, who had successfully traversed a similar situation with 3D Systems in 2012.
The outcome of that lawsuit was never made public as far as I know, but my understanding is that Formlabs was eventually required to pay 3D Systems some form of royalty for each Formlabs machine sold, putting a small dent in their profitability.
It’s possible a similar outcome could occur in this case, but we won’t know for quite a while.
This scenario is going to go through a number of stages (and likely has already passed through a few already). There will have to be discussions between the companies. Negotiations. If they fail to agree, then there could be a court hearing their arguments. Then more negotiations. Finally, the court may provide a decision. And then more negotiations.
It’s not clear which specific patents are involved, but they could be regarding major components of the Formlabs system - or maybe they aren’t. Maybe Formlabs can change their equipment somehow to avoid infringing the patent. Or maybe not.
At this point, it is entirely unclear who will win.
On second thought, it IS TOTALLY CLEAR who will profit from this episode: the lawyers.