This should make CES a bit awkward next week… After Stratasys stunned the 3D printing community by filing a lawsuit against Afinia, makers of the H-Series FFF 3D printer, at the end of last year, the company has released its response. The original press statement from Stratasys explains that they are seeking “injunctive relief and damages for infringement of four of its 3D printing patents” and making the claim that “Afinia’s sale, promotion and use of its Series H printer infringes patents directed to part porosity, liquefier structure, temperature control and tool paths for constructing part perimeters.” In response, Afinia will be defending its technology, with the company’s lawyer, Attorney William J. Cass, of Cantor Colburn stating, “Afinia has included affirmative defenses of patent misuse and will be investigating a potential claim for antitrust (by patent) given the significant differences between the asserted claims and the Afinia H Series.”
The official legal document filed by Afinia can be found on their site here and it goes into the various ways in which they plan to defend themselves against Stratasys in all of the legal mumbo jumbo you’d expect, sometimes sounding like a person with OCD living in colonial New England, with phrases like, “Plaintiff is not entitled to any equitable relief or recovery because it has unclean hands.” There are a few things that I was able to glean from the document:
- Afinia is claiming that they have not infringed on the patents of Stratasys (See Declaratory Judgement Of Non-Infringement)
- Afinia will argue that Stratasys’ patents are invalid, based on prior art, patents that preceded those of Stratasys.
- Afinia will be counterclaiming patent misuse on the part of Stratasys, which, according to Wikipedia, sounds as though they’ll argue that Stratasys “[has] broadened the scope or term of the patent in a way that hurts competition.”
- Unlike the 3D Systems v. FormLabs & Kickstarter case, Afinia has petitioned the court for a jury trial.
- Also unlike the above case, this will have a huge impact on the 3D printing community, which thrives on the ability to innovate FFF technology (as opposed to the stereolithography of 3D Systems and FormLabs).
Such a lawsuit, if won by Stratasys, could do the company a little bit of good, by weeding out the competition, but the whole lawsuit definitely doesn’t reflect well on their corporate image. Kind of strikes me as though they’ve let all of the smaller companies and Makers do the work of establishing 3D printing’s popularity in the mainstream, through the development of awesome desktop 3D printing technology. Then, they acquired the most popular desktop manufacturer and, now, plan to take out the rest. I think that may have been Shane’s theory and not mine, actually. Anyway, that sort of behavior doesn’t reflect well on the company’s management, in my opinion. But, as 3D printing hits the mainstream, most people won’t know this story and won’t care one way or the other how Stratasys established dominance in the consumer 3DP marketplace.
That is, if they happen to come out on top. The battle has yet to begin and a Stratasys win is by no means a foregone conclusion. According to the documents, the defense team is confident enough to warrant a jury trial. So, we may see a triumph of David over Goliath and, therefore, a win for all of us little people. All of the Makers and small companies can go back to making FFF 3D printers, without worrying about Goliath standing over their shoulders.
Feature Image Source: user Print_Advocate on Thingiverse