The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is looking for help with their latest project, keeping innovation in 3D printing open.
While many core patents restricting 3D printing have expired or will soon expire, there is a risk that “creative” patent drafting will continue to lock up ideas beyond the 20-year terms of those initial patents or that patents will restrict further advances made by the open hardware community. The incremental nature of innovation in 3D printing makes it particularly unsuitable for patenting, as history has shown.
We’ve said before that the America Invents Act failed to address many of the patent system’s worst problems. Despite that, it does include at least one provision we think could be helpful: the newly implemented Preissuance Submission procedure. That procedure allows third parties to participate in the patent application process by creating a vehicle to provide patent examiners with prior art. We’re glad to see the Patent Office open up the process to those who might not be filing patents themselves, but who are affected by the patent system everyday. We’re also glad that this new process may help stem the tide of improvidently-granted patents.
EFF and the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society are working together to use this new process to challenge patent applications that particularly threaten growing 3D printing technologies. As a first step, we are evaluating 3D printing patent applications currently pending before the Patent Office to identify potential target applications. We need your help! If you know of any applications covering 3D printing technology that you think should be challenged, please let us know by emailing 3Dprinting@eff.org (and also point us to any relevant prior art you might know about).
To get involved with the search, go to the USPTO’s application search tool, PAIR, and/or Google Patents. Each of these sources contains valuable details about the applications currently pending before the USPTO. Here’s the thing: under the current rules, a patent application may only be challenged by a Preissuance Submission within six months of its publication (or before the date of the first rejection, if that comes later). This means the clock is already ticking on the current crop of patent applications.