Possible Controversy on Thingiverse?

By on May 22nd, 2018 in models

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 A 3D printed bladeless fan
A 3D printed bladeless fan

I found an interesting 3D model at Thingiverse, but then something happened. 

I first saw this model referenced in a Reddit thread, and became immediately interested. The model was a project for a bladeless fan, designed by Thingiverse contributor Helix3D. 

This multi-part project requires not only some 3D printed components, but also an electric fan, wiring, rubber feet, power supply and a switch. 

What attracted me to this project was the uncanny resemblance to the famous (and pricey) Dyson Bladeless Fan that I’ve often seen for sale in stores. I’ve never bought one myself simply because their price is usually far above what I would pay for a fan. Sure, it’s a terrific looking unit, but in my mind it is overpriced. 

 Some actual Dyson bladeless fans
Some actual Dyson bladeless fans

Then there was this project on Thingiverse that could, in theory, produce the same kind of fan at far lower cost. And with the fun of building the project, too. 

An inspection of the Thingiverse page showed the fan and several downloadable part files. But there was a notice saying “Hey! This thing is still a Work in Progress. Files, instructions, and other stuff might change!” Perhaps there was another version? 

There was indeed. A section of the entry says: 

Version 2 here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1665610

Excellent! I immediately proceeded to the apparently new and improved version. 

Where I saw this in a prominent red box: 

This Thing is currently under moderation: due to a Notice of Claimed Intellectual Property Infringement. Files and images for this Thing are currently unavailable.

 Looks like a problem with this 3D model
Looks like a problem with this 3D model

Oh oh. 

It seems that someone has filed a complaint with Thingiverse regarding the 3D model’s design. Who could that be? Perhaps Dyson themselves? We cannot know, as Thingiverse isn’t saying. 

But in retrospect it is not surprising, as Dyson no doubt makes significant coin on their unique bladeless design, and having a free version anyone could make probably isn’t the greatest idea for them. Worse, if they don’t actively protect their design they could be setting a legal precedent that suggests the design doesn’t deserve protection. 

This is one reason companies often come down very hard on what might be insignificant uses of their intellectual property. They’re not so much interested in nailing the first offender, it’s instead they’re interested in preventing oceans of subsequent infringers, and larger ones in particular. 

Thus Thingiverse has disabled this particular design and there is no ability to download the 3D model files for printing. 

Except for one thing. 

The original version is still up, alive and distributing the 3D model files. 

In this case it appears that Dyson, or whoever filed the complaint, somehow missed the earlier version, or considered it too “far away” from their own design to bother. But I think that latter scenario is unlikely. 

The more likely thing is that they simply missed it. And that’s not surprising given the number of 3D model repositories and millions of entries, with countless daily changes. 

Searching for infringers must be quite difficult. In this case the poster never used the word “Dyson”, so that would make it more challenging to find. They could search for bladeless, but that could refer to many other things. 

Some posters of infringing 3D models disguise their posts through careful management of the descriptive text, and perhaps that happened by accident here. We’ll never know for sure. 

Meanwhile, you may enjoy the original bladeless fan design. 

Via Thingiverse and Thingiverse

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!