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Activists aim to confound 3D printing patent trolls

15 Dec 2012

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked open source enthusiasts to help it police patent applications to ensure unscrupulous firms cannot stifle the nascent 3D printing space.

The EFF called for volunteers to highlight any concerns over intellectual property which could be patented by private groups and used in later litigation against 3D printing start-ups.

The group said that the effort was part of a campaign to keep the 3D printing space free from patent trolls, which the EFF claimed would stifle innovation in the market by looking to impose licence fees wherever possible.

"With your help, we have identified a line-up of top-priority patent applications that seem both overly-broad and dangerous to the open source community," EFF attorney Julie Samuels said in a blog post.

"Now it's time to find proof that these patent applicants do not deserve the monopolies they are asking for: that what they are trying to patent was known or was obvious before the patent was filed."

The group is asking users to submit documents, prior art, public emails and other materials which could be used in the patent application process. The EFF hopes that the campaign will help to keep the 3D printing market open and free from control by a select group of vendors.

While still in its infancy, 3D printing has drawn the attention of the engineering and industrial communities for its possible applications in the manufacturing space. Both the public and private sector have invested in the space hoping to reap rewards in future.

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Shaun Nichols

Shaun Nichols is the US correspondent for He has been with the company since 2006, originally joining as a news intern at the site's San Francisco offices.

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