The outcome is beginning to appear in the patent infringement case Stratasys brought against personal 3D printer marketer Afinia.
According to a detailed analysis in Makezine by 3D print intellectual property expert Michael Weinberg, one of four claims by Stratasys against Afinia were dropped. The claim related to the process of providing infill when 3D printing, which Stratasys patented some years ago. Afinia appears to have successfully argued against this claim, which they say is invalid due to the existence of prior art. What’s fascinating is that the prior art specified by Afinia seems to be from Stratasys itself.
The case involved three other patent infringement claims, specifically for heat control during printing, extruder design features and a method of hiding layer seams. These claims are still under discussion and may eventually make it to the trial, tentatively scheduled for 2015, unless similar pre-trial determinations are made.
For small 3D printer manufacturers, this is probably good news, as at least one patent exposure seems to be lifted. But three more remain – and could be applied against them should Stratasys’ claims prevail. For Stratasys, it could mean a slight loss of technology control over one aspect of the plastic extrusion process, but they have a great many other patents in force and in progress.
This is certainly not the end of the tale.