After last week’s blockbuster announcement of Afinia’s response to Stratasys’ allegations of patent infringement, we got thinking about what this might mean.
We’re anxiously awaiting further developments, that likely being a full-on court case where a judge and jury hear detailed technical arguments from both sides. That hasn’t even begun yet and we suspect once it does such a case could take considerable time to complete.
The case could result in several different outcomes:
- Afinia is found in violation of the four Stratasys patents. In this scenario, Afinia would probably have to pay “relief” to Stratasys. Meaning dollars. They may also cease sales entirely unless they can afford to modify the violations out of their device.
- Afinia is found not in violation of said patents. In that scenario Afinia would likely continue selling product as planned, and perhaps even expand sales significantly. Barring an appeal by Stratasys, of course.
- Afinia is found in violation of some of the four patents. In that scenario Afinia would likely pay some form of relief and modify their units to avoid infringement. But they may continue operations.
There is one other scenario that could happen. Afinia’s response claimed that Stratasys’ four patents were invalid, having shown what they believe to be examples of similar prior work. Should this happen it could have a monumental affect on the 3D printing industry:
- Stratasys’ stock price may take an instant hit as the value of their company is partially based on their patent portfolio.
- The technologies described in the four invalidated patents would then be available for use by anyone. 3D printing companies could continue to use the partial infill techniques common in the industry today.
- 3D printing companies could develop machines with thin walled extruders, controlled heating and cooling (e.g. heated chambers).
- Such machines could eventually directly compete with Stratasys’ line of FDM 3D printers.
If these things happen it could be a bad day for Stratasys.
But then again, that may not be the jury’s decision.
We await the verdict. And the trial, too.