When I am confronted by 3D printing news that involves legal disputes, it is usually accompanied by a sinking feeling and a brief time spent pondering human nature. On this occasion, however, it’s given me a lift on this frosty Tuesday morning.
So it turns out that yesterday, lawyers for both 3D Systems and Formlabs, were in court settling the long-running dispute between the two companies focused on the infringement, or otherwise, of 3D Systems’ stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing process. You have to go back to September 2012 for the beginning of the story, when, in the September of that year, Formlabs launched what it billed as the first truly high-resolution, low-cost 3D printer. I remember it well, the news broke during the TCT show, and I was running around like a mad woman, while also on the phone to Formlabs. Just under two months and a very successful Kickstarter campaign later, towards the end of November that year, 3D Systems filed a lawsuit against Formlabs claiming infringement of a still active US patent relating to SLA.
In a litigious world of commerce, this one has been bubbling under the surface, but rarely surfaced in the headlines over the proceeding two years. Everyone knew it was “ongoing” but apart from a few whispers and “no comments” from the companies themselves it’s stayed below the surface. I do remember asking Cathy Lewis at Euromold in December 2012 about it. She wouldn’t/couldn’t go into detail, but one comment she made at that time did stick with me. I can’t quote her directly due to the passing of time, but it was along the lines of ‘we’re not out to destroy them, but we need to talk to them.’
Now it seems the talking is all done and they have come to an undisclosed settlement, and “resolved the matters between them.” No telling if both sides are happy, without details one can only speculate what that resolution involves. It may come out in the coming weeks or months, or both sides may remain tight-lipped.
But, overall, good news that it is over.
Now Stratasys and Afinia just need to sort themselves out too. That IS still ongoing, at least according to David Reis when I asked him about it last week.