Italian stereolithograhy (SLA) 3D printer developer DWS has filed a counterclaim against Formlabs, the U.S. developer and manufacturer of the Form series of SLA 3D printers. The development is the most recent update in an ongoing legal battle between the two companies, alleging patent infringement between the Formlabs Form 2 3D printer, and the technology inside DWS X series and DW systems.
To date, DWS has pending litigation of patent infringement allegations in Italy, Germany and Turkey relating to Formlabs’ native patents for each country.
According to Formlabs, each of these cases are inextricably linked to a kind of “master patent” filed by the company in its country of origin. As such, Formlabs is seeking to settle all cases in the U.S. at Virginia Eastern District Court under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, 35 U.S.C. § 293.
The counterclaim has been filed in response to a complaint by Formlabs which requested a jury to decide its non-infringement of the DWS patent in question, known as the ‘456 patent.
Formlabs, Inc. v. DWS S.R.L.
The feud between Formlabs and DWS has been ongoing since 2017. According to official court documents filed by Formlabs, “[…] DWS has engaged, and continues to engage, in a pattern of filing lawsuits against Formlabs and/or its subsidiaries or resellers and asserting that the Form 2 infringes the claims of certain foreign patents related to the ’456 patent, including claims of the foreign patents that are virtually identical to the claims of the ’456 patent,”
“Formlabs denies that the Form 2, or Formlabs’ associated activities, infringe any claim of the ’456 patent or its related foreign counterparts.”
As such, Formlabs filed “a civil action seeking a declaratory judgment that Formlabs does not infringe any claim of U.S. Patent No. 8,945,456,” to which DWS has filed its counterclaim.
The ‘456 patent
The ‘456 patent details the invention of DWS’ proprietary SLA technology and includes five different elements: Preamble, Container, Support Plate, Radiation Source and Temperature Control Unit.
According to Formlabs, the Temperature Control Unit described in the DWS patent is an element not satisfied by the Form 2, and therefore the company claims that it cannot infringe on this claim or its dependents.
DWS however, disagrees. In the counterclaim, DWS asserts that Formlabs’ alleged infringement “is, and has been, willful,” and the company is seeking damages and an injunction against Formlabs and the production/sale of the Form 2 3D printer. Furthermore, on August 3, 2018, the German Court of Mannheim supported DWS in its claim, judging that the Form 2 3D printer infringes the German equivalent of the ‘456 patent.
IP infringement in 3D printing
Operating within such a competitive industry, this is not the first time Formlabs and other 3D printer developers have been taken to court over alleged IP infringement.
Previous cases of this nature have usually ended in a settlement between the companies, and/or some form of licensing agreement in which one party pays royalties to the other for applying the technology.
DWS and Formlabs have been contacted for further comment on these claims.
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Featured image shows inside the DWS DW series 3D printer. Photo via DWS