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Stratasys sues Afinia

Posted by Have Blue 
Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 01:25PM
"Stratasys Acts to Protect Its Intellectual Property"

[investors.stratasys.com]

Attached is the case summary - they're going after heated beds?!?


[haveblue.org]
Attachments:
open | download - 10114908932.pdf (259.9 KB)
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 01:51PM
I thought this part of the announcement was interesting:

Quote
Stratasys
This is the first time that Stratasys has commenced an action for infringement of its patents.

Also interesting, from this article:

Quote
Afinia review on Cnet
If the H479 looks familiar, it's because Afinia licensed the design from Chinese manufacturer Delta Micro Factory, maker of the UP! 3D printer.

I'm not familiar with Afinia, but it seems like they are part of a large company?
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 02:26PM
Quote
MattMoses
I'm not familiar with Afinia, but it seems like they are part of a large company?

They're part of Microboards Technology (http://www.microboards.com/about), but I think Beijing TierTime (the parent of PP3DP) is much larger. I wonder if Stratasys is using this case to test the waters before a possible suit against other hobbyist printer makers? If they win on the heated bed claim, it would be a huge blow to the hobbyist market.


[haveblue.org]
A2
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 02:31PM
Got a link to Stratasys heated bed patent?
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 02:35PM
It certainly would have a chilling effect spinning smiley sticking its tongue out.

But seriously, yeah. It could be a disaster for the small hobbyist companies. So far it seems like Stratasys has been willing to leave the little guys alone... and Afinia is no little guy. But who knows what they will do in the future.
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 02:42PM
Quote
Have Blue

Attached is the case summary - they're going after heated beds?!?


Not only that:

Infill percentage

Heated beds

Extruders.

A path that conceals the ends


According to them, all FFF printers are infringing one or more of theirs patents.

@MattMoses: I believe they will protect Makerbot from all competition, so if they win this one, they will eventually sue all others.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/25/2013 02:51PM by Guizmo.
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 02:44PM
Quote
A2
Got a link to Stratasys heated bed patent?
The case summary HaveBlue uploaded has all the details, but the four patents cited are:
  • August 5, 1997, U.S. Patent No 5,653,925 (the 925 patent) METHOD FOR CONTROLLED POROSITY THREE DIMENSIONAL MODELING
  • February 2, 1999, U.S. Patent No. 5,866,058 (the 058 patent) METHOD FOR RAPID PROTOTYPING OF SOLID MODELS
  • December 21, 1999, U.S. Patent No. 6,004,124 (the 124 patent) THIN WALL TUBE LIQUIFIER
  • January 8, 2013, U.S. Patent No. 8,349,239 (the 239 patent) SEAM CONCEALMENT FOR THREE DIMENSIONAL MODELS
The heated build platform is alleged to infringe the 058 patent.
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 02:47PM
@A2:

Looks like a general patent for FDM, but it mentions the temperature control to avoid curling. I believe this is the famous patent that prevented a lot of people from using enclosures:

[www.google.com]


They claim that a heated bed infringes this:

6. The method of claim 5, wherein the local region temperature of the build environment is maintained, at least during step b), below the creep relaxation temperature of said thermally solidifiable material.
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 02:56PM
Quote
A2
Got a link to Stratasys heated bed patent?

Stratasys doesn't have a heated bed patent - they're using a very loose interpretation of the term 'build environment' in the '058 patent to cover the area above a heated bed.

(Guizmo beat me to it)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/25/2013 02:58PM by Have Blue.

[haveblue.org]
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 03:21PM
@Have Blue,

Yes, I agree. It's kinda dumb.

So, if you have a heater in your home during the winter, you cannot print inside, tongue sticking out smiley

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/26/2013 07:57AM by Guizmo.
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 03:29PM
Luckily Stratasys is actually being dumb here. It may be better PR-wise to attack a large company but they would stand a better chance at winning a case against a small guy and in the process establish precedent. IMO, the heated bed is the only thing in danger here. I doubt they will sue Slic3r or CURA. This could keep software from being packaged with a printer.

Patent law makes me cry all the time!
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 03:30PM
They aren't going to start action against hobby makers or DIY printers. There is no money in it for them. After what eventually happened with the MPAA/RIAA file sharing suits and the Righthaven copyright troll I don't think they'd launch an all out assault on hobbyists but would expect them to take action against anyone selling what they considered to be infringing on one of thier patents.
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 03:39PM
@ Vegasloki: That's one problem. Many people that would like to start a small bussiness selling 3d printers will not and perhaps many developers will stop too.
But there could be something good from this. We may invent a new technology to avoid this patents.
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 04:13PM
They are going for Afinia because they have deep pockets. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of people that already sell Reprap designs and parts, me included. They want to stop or at least impede mass market consumer machines and using a patent defense is a strategy they have employed. With HP jumping into the market in 2014 they are likely "marking their turf", so to speak. That segment of the market isn't going to be lead by small Reprap based firms as it requires capital and expertise beyond what most of the small operations can muster. While it's important to be aware of the action, over reacting isn't a prudent reaction. As far as parts sales they can't control what is sold as long as it has other uses than the infringing use.

Just because something is listed in a complaint doesn't mean it's necessarily true or that the court will have the same interpretation. The point is to paint the other guy in as bad a light as possible. Patents aren't for a general idea but for the specific implementaion of that idea. Just because a patent is filed doesn't mean it's valid. When Afinia answers the complaint it will be just as rhetoric filled as the Stratsys complaint and likely target the validity of the patent in the first place. That is the silver lining for others in that if the patents are challenged or the implementation methods specific to this action are found to be outside the scope of these patents that is a win for others that want to enter the field.
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 04:28PM
Quote
vegasloki
When Afinia answers the complaint...
... they will probably settle. Patent disputes are usually resolved out of court. 3DS and Formlabs are apparently negotiating a settlement after 3DS sued Formlabs+Kickstarter.
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 04:40PM
Bre Pettis must be really proud to have stayed committed to Open Source Hardware despite substantial financial inducements to sell out... oh wait.


RAMPS-FD: RAMPS for Due ---|--- Extruder Expansion boards EXT4 + EXT6
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 04:43PM
Quote
vegasloki
That is the silver lining for others in that if the patents are challenged or the implementation methods specific to this action are found to be outside the scope of these patents that is a win for others that want to enter the field.

Perhaps, or Afinia just cave and pay the licence fee, because it costs more to defend than the licence fee.

The only sure thing is that lawyers get a whole load of money over something that should never have been granted in the first place.


RAMPS-FD: RAMPS for Due ---|--- Extruder Expansion boards EXT4 + EXT6
A2
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 04:49PM
Disclaimer: This post does not constitute legal advice. I am not an attorney. I do not have expertise in these matters.



Summary:
I think claim 1c is among the main claims to focus on.
I think it reads that they have the ability to reduce the heated bed temperature to a point that it cools the part “and”
at the same time reduce the temperature of the part.

Their use of the therm “local region” bothers me:
The claims don't descriptively describe what the “local region” exactly is, I'm assuming it's the heated bed?

“a build region having at least a local region temperature that exceeds the solidification temperature of the thermally solidifiable material”

“the local region encompasses at least a most recently deposited layer of said thermally solidifiable material.”

“local region temperature of the build environment”


Potential workarounds to some of the claims of US patent 5866058:
[www.google.com]

1a: having at least a “local region” temperature that exceeds the solidification temperature (70)
Workaround: Don't exceed the solidification temperature.
The heated bed temperature must be lower than the solidification temperature (ex. ~70 for ABS).


1b: This describes every 3D printer on the market.

1c) solidifying said thermally solidifiable material by cooling said local region temperature and said material below the solidification temperature of the material.
Workaround: Don't cool the local region, (i.e. don't turn off the hotplate while printing?) “or” don't cool the material (i.e. don't use a fan to cool the part?).

3. The method of claim 2, wherein the local region temperature of the build environment, at least during step b), is below the glass transition temperature.
Workaround: heated bed temperature is greater than the glass transition temperature (ex. ~100 C for ABS).

6. The method of claim 5, wherein the local region temperature of the build environment is maintained, at least during step b),
below the creep relaxation temperature of said thermally solidifiable material.
Workaround: don't use a heated enclosure, and “or” employ the previous mentioned workarounds.

7. The method of claim 1, wherein concurrent with said cooling of said local region and said material below the solidification temperature of the material during step c),
a rate of temperature change versus position in the said physical object is maintained below a threshold value.
Workaround: I'm unsure of this one.

8. The method of claim 1, wherein the thermally solidifiable material is acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene.
Workaround: Don't use ABS.

9c) maintaining during step b) the build environment, at least in a vicinity of the extruder, within a predetermined temperature range,
said temperature range being above a solidification temperature of the thermally solidifiable material;
Workaround: I think this one means don't warm the area around the nozzle, say for an example with a hair dryer?

e) concurrently with step d), adjusting temperatures within the build environment differentially so that the solidifiable material,
upon which additional solidifiable material has accumulated, is cooled below a solidification temperature thereof; and
Workaround: Don't use a fan to cool the part.

f) further solidifying the said object by cooling said object below said solidification temperature.
Workaround: Don't use a fan to cool the part.

10. The method of claim 9, wherein the thermally solidifiable material is a thermoplastic which exhibits a glass transition temperature and step c)
maintains the temperature of the build environment below the glass transition temperature.
Workaround: don't use a heated enclosure.

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 11/27/2013 07:48PM by MattMoses.
Attachments:
open | download - ScreenHunter_231 Nov. 26 17.17.jpg (30.3 KB)
A2
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 04:55PM
It's very unusual of Stratasys council not to have been proactive and instigated litigation at the juncture that Stratasys had some cash to sling around.
Maybe the owners ignored the advice of their council? Maybe it's a clue that the owners of Stratasys are OK humans smiling smiley

Every big company needs to have a track record of litigation to the tune of at least $3,000,000,
maybe today that number should be $5,000,000. So I fully expect Stratasys to be spending the money, as it's long over due.
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 05:06PM
Quote
A2
It's very unusual of Stratasys council not to have been proactive and instigated litigation at the juncture that Stratasys had some cash to sling around.

Seems to me it's more like they waited to finish acquiring Makerbot, as Makerbot would have had at least a few of the same claimed infringements.


[haveblue.org]
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 06:49PM
Any lawsuits to protect Makerbot in the consumer market make a lot of sense, but Afinia may be a red herring.

I'm guessing the real target will be Cube and 3DSystems.
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 06:59PM
Afinia have far greater mass retail distribution deals than any of the other players at this point. This suit isn't about technology as much as it is using patents to stop or at least distract a competitor in the field. I don't see them settling. They could have brought the suit a while ago but didn't have anything they could put in the channel until they acquired Makerbot. I wouldn't doubt this was the plan all along.
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 07:19PM
Quote
vegasloki
Afinia have far greater mass retail distribution deals than any of the other players at this point. This suit isn't about technology as much as it is using patents to stop or at least distract a competitor in the field. I don't see them settling. They could have brought the suit a while ago but didn't have anything they could put in the channel until they acquired Makerbot. I wouldn't doubt this was the plan all along.

That's a possible scenario, but if I've read my copy of the Make 2014 3D printer guide correctly, the Afinia is a re-branded Up Plus printer.

The Up Plus is made (or sold) by PP3DP, with distributers in the U.S., Germany, and Australia.

At least the jury selection will be interesting if it goes to court. They're both in the Minneapolis area, or thereabouts.
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 08:43PM
Afinia is owned by Microboards Technology. They are big players in the entertaimment duplication market. Afinia have licensed the design from Delta Micro (PP3DP parent) for use in the H series product in question so I think it's fair to call it rebranded. Earlier this summer Afinia announced deals with CDW, Best Buy, Radio Shack (who is retooling to become a maker/hacker supply outlet) Staples Canada, Tiger Direct and B&H for large scale online retail distribution. They've also got several smaller retailers as well but at this time they have the largest consumer retail footprint in the game. The problem with Makerbot pre Stratasys was they didn't have the capital or expertise to scale manufacturing to be able to supply mainstream retail. They couldn't keep up with what they were selling in thier own store. The key to being sucessful at big time retail is distribution but you have to be able to support the channel with product. Something Makerbot hasn't been able to do on both counts.
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 25, 2013 11:56PM
Wouldn't it be amazing if someone could invent a 3D printer that could print all the parts to make a complete copy of itself? And then people who wanted one wouldn't go to CDW, Best Buy, Radio Shack, or Tiger Direct, they would just buy one from someone who already had one? It would have to be some kind of self replicating 3D printer.

Oh, but this is just crazy talk. Who would invent a self replicating 3D printer? You couldn't go in to business with it, because you'd go out of business as soon as you sold your first unit. And if you can't go in to business with it, why invent it?

Maybe some community of like-minded volunteers could develop something like that: humanity's first self-replicating 3D printer. Base it on some known system and gradually add capabilities to make it more and more self-replicating, until anyone can print copies on their own... Nah, that would never work. As soon as someone got their machine to print something, they would forget all about making it self-replicating and run off to start their own little company. (Which then would promptly be sued into oblivion.)

spinning smiley sticking its tongue out spinning smiley sticking its tongue out spinning smiley sticking its tongue out spinning smiley sticking its tongue out spinning smiley sticking its tongue out
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 26, 2013 12:58AM
looking at all the conversations going across multiple forums when this story comes up the first thing i see is people fearful of what stratasys could "potentially" do and start making a lot of assumptions based on little to no fact,

given that we are a movement consisting of several thousand people across multiple countries, we are too big to ignore and nearly impossible/unpractical to go after on the legal front, and probably have more collective development resources than they do...

maybe we should be approaching them to talk about some sort of coexistence in the future?




-=( blog )=- -=( thingiverse )=- -=( store )=- -=( Aluhotend - mostly metal hotend)=-



Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 26, 2013 01:24AM
That's the benefit of doing a real reprap. You're not supposed to sell directly the machine, as people do themselves smiling smiley

Designers should just be fund by the community , then, never have any infringement problem.

This new business model is the only way to evolve from this $@$(#* actual model ! (my 2c).
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 26, 2013 07:24AM
From what I've been reading about Chinese Printers as of late, Stratasys is shooting themselves in the foot.

The Chinese printers are becoming really good quality, and printing right out of the box.

People will just buy Chinese printers, if Stratasys attempts to dominate the market this way.
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 26, 2013 08:44AM
Quote
thejollygrimreaper
maybe we should be approaching them to talk about some sort of coexistence in the future?

Afinia is selling closed source, fully built printers. Honestly, it's a pretty far cry from what the average reprap user is using. I don't think there's any reason for all the panic here. If you build a reprap at home, nobody is going to sue you. Patents really only exist to protect money and markets and to gain footholds in ways of making it. They can shut down all of their competitors, but they really can't touch reprap. Fundamentally, this is a community of ideas.. which despite what it may seem, has little to do with patents.

If you're here to sell stuff, yeah maybe this power move should concern you. But lets keep it in perspective -- as far as the goals of the reprap project go, this is hardly a blip on the radar.
Re: Stratasys sues Afinia
November 26, 2013 09:00AM
@iquizzle: I think we should embrace the idea that people will want to make a business that runs on open source ideals. We owe Ubuntu to a company for example. While I think that RepRap at its core has nothing to be afraid of there are some businesses that RepRap directly and indirectly benefits from that do have reason to be afraid. I propose we do freak out and we do get concerned and we do get mad at the patent system. It is a healthy response. The system prevents innovation and that is something that I think RepRap should be very concerned about.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/26/2013 10:23AM by nicholas.seward.
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