3D Printer Design Allegedly Infringes on Patent


3D Printing Expert WitnessThis case involves a large corporation, based in Idaho, that patented a design for a home-use 3D printer. The plaintiff’s printer allowed individuals to produce small, 3D objects from smaller space and had rapid prototyping capabilities. It also worked in conjunction with a number of design programs, allowing individuals to share designs that could be printed. The company filed for, and received, a patent for the design. About a month later, the defendant finished producing a similar, home-use printer. The second company began selling their printers to consumers and marketing it in a similar manner. The plaintiff discovered the defendant’s actions and sued for patent infringement. An expert in intellectual property (IP) was sought to opine on the issue.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Was the second printer similar enough to the first to constitute an infringement of the plaintiff's patent?

Expert Witness Response

A number of factors have to be analyzed in these types of technology cases. The most important consideration is the patent, itself, as originally filed by the plaintiff. The ‘claims’ of the patent will serve as the baseline to which the defendant’s printer will be compared. Specifically, because 3D printing is such a new technology, analyzing any similarities is difficult to do. The three most commonly used technologies for 3D printing are SLS, FDM and SLA. Determining which technology each printer uses, along with the resolution at which they can produce, and the size of the objects they can produce, will help to determine the similarity of the printers. While an examination of the patent will highlight any violations by the defendant, the specific uses of the defendant’s printer (the home-use feature, along with resolution capabilities) suggests that these printers are extremely similar, and that there may be infringement. I have extensive experience with new technology patents, having thirty years of experience teaching emerging technologies at a national university.

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