INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: Free Software Foundation V’s 3DPrinting Copyright?

Our recent articles regarding the a new patent from Intellectual Ventures that attempts to assert ownership of DRM for 3DPrinting raises a plethora of validation issues, concerns, positive applications and negative speculations.

Technology Review’s explanation of how things would work:

“You load a file into your printer, then your printer checks to make sure it has the rights to make the object, to make it out of what material, how many times, and so on,” says Michael Weinberg, a staff lawyer at the nonprofit Public Knowledge, who reviewed the patent at the request of Technology Review. “It’s a very broad patent.”

It’s perhaps an obvious approach, which most engineers or designers could, and doubntless have, conceived. Leaving aside this familiar problem with the patent system, there’s an important expostulation that does not arise in the above exposition – that the printer has the power to disregard the users instructions: to refuse to print the object that you wish, because of the DRM in the file describing it, or there is no DRM at all.

This parallels the situation for computers, where DRM is based on the assumption that your computer is not fully under your control, and has the ability to ignore your commands. That’s one of the reasons why free software is so important: it is predicated on the idea that the user is always in control.

Against the background of the new 3DPrinting patent, this announcement from the Free Software Foundation (FSF) that it has recently certified a 3DPrinter made by Aleph Objects as “respecting the user’s freedom”, takes on a particular significance:

‘The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today awarded its first Respects Your Freedom (RYF) certification to the LulzBot AO-100 3D Printer sold by Aleph Objects, Inc. The RYF certification mark means that the product meets the FSF’s standards in regard to users’ freedom, control over the product, and privacy.’

The FSF’s criteria for making the award:

‘The desire to own a computer or device and have full control over it, to know that you are not being spied on or tracked, to run any software you wish without asking permission, and to share with friends without worrying about Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) – these are the desires of millions of people who care about the future of technology and our society. Unfortunately, hardware manufacturers have until now relied on close cooperation with proprietary software companies that demanded control over their users. As citizens and their customers, we need to promote our desires for a new class of hardware – hardware that anyone can support because it respects your freedom.’

That is, in making the award, the FSF has established that the LulzBot remains fully under the user’s control.

Until now, that hasn’t been an issue – there’s no practical way to stop someone from simply downloading a file and then printing it out on a compatible 3DPrinter. But the patent from Intellectual Ventures is the first step towards a time when users of 3DPrinters will be confronted with issues of control in exactly the same way that computer users are today.
Once 3DPrinting becomes more widespread, we can certainly expect pressure from manufacturers to bring in laws against unauthorized copying of physical objects and circumvention of 3D DRM schemes, just as the copyright industries have pushed for ever-harsher laws against file sharing.

They may even try to get open hardware systems like the LulzBot made illegal on the grounds that the user is fully in control – just as large multi-media companies would doubtless love to make computers running free software illegal?

That’s a battle they lost, largely because free software existed long before digital media files were sold to consumers.

We may not be so lucky next time…
Expanded from: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20121017/06533320729/free-software-foundation-certifies-3d-printer-why-that-matters.shtml
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3DPrint Patent Is Weak – New Scientist >

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(Image: Martine Roch/Flickr/Getty)

‘One of the greatest benefits of 3DPrinting technology – the ability to make replacements or parts for household objects like toys, utensils and gadgets – may be denied to US citizens thanks to the granting of a sweeping patent that prevents the printing of unauthorised 3D designs. It has all the makings of the much-maligned digital rights management (DRM) system that prevented copying of Apple iTunes tracks – until it was abandoned as a no-hoper in 2009.

US patent 8286236, granted on 9 October to Intellectual Ventures of Bellevue, Washington, lends a 3D printer the ability to assess whether a computer design file it’s reading has an authorisation code appended that grants access for printing. If it does not, the machine simply refuses to print – whether it’s a solid object, a textile or even food that’s being printed.

The piracy of 3D designs is indeed an emerging concern, and 3D object sharing – rather than file sharing – sites have already sprung up. While no 3DPrinter maker has adopted what might be called “3D DRM”, international treaties like the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement mean it is not out of the question.

“Clamping down on moves to 3DPrint handguns may fuel such moves, for instance.”

What has riled some tech commentators (here and here for instance) is the fact that Intellectual Ventures that does not make 3DPrinters at all, but simply trades in patent rights – a practice detractors call ‘patent trolling.’

The firm, run by Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, quietly files patents under the names of a great many shell companies (as this Stanford University analysis shows) and then licenses them to companies using the ideas it lays claim to, litigating if it has to. Intellectual Ventures is thought to hold more than 40,000 patents.

The new patent may face challenges to its validity, however, because it extends rights management beyond 3DPrinting to much older computerised manufacturing techniques, such as computer-controlled milling, extrusion, die casting and stamping.

Companies in those businesses are likely to have previously considered some kind of design rights authentication, says Greg Aharonian, of bustpatents.com in San Francisco. He says that museums were wondering how to protect 3D sculptures against printer piracy back in 2002 and that DRM was in the frame then. So Intellectual Ventures’ claim to novelty – a key part of whether any patent is determined to be valid and enforceable – looks weak…’

http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/onepercent/2012/10/patent-could-shackle-3d-printers-drm.html

CNN Suggests 3DPrinting is Going Mainstream >

In this video, CNN highlights another way 3DPrinting is expanding its presence in our everyday lives.  It’s a nice video, but it doesn’t do justice to this technology. 
For example: General Electric (NYSE: GE) currently produces jet engine turbine blades with 3DPrinting and saves an estimated $25,000 per engine.  If GE builds its estimated 5850 jet engines in 2012, it will save over $146 million on this one part for this one product alone.
SelectTech Geospatial developed and built a fully functional drone aircraft with 3DPrinting in two weeks (instead of six) at a cost of $5,000 (instead of $30,000).Popular Mechanics designated 3DPrinting as a Top Ten Tech Breakthrough for 2012.

Headbobble.com will custom build a bobblehead doll in your likeness with color 3DPrinting!

“3DPrinting is hyped, but mainstream and growing. “

But where to turn to invest in this new phenomena? 

Formlabs and Makerbot, the companies featured in the video, are not publicly traded… companies that are include 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD) and Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS).

They build the printers, develop the materials and write the software for both commercial and personal use.  Both are considered leaders in the 3DPrinting industry.  Both are similar in size (DDD is $2 billion market cap, SSYS is $1.3 billion) and valuation (the PE for DDD is 62, SSYS is 70).  Both are coming off recent declines in their stock prices of about 20%.  No question both companies bear the burden of high expectations for steadily improving earnings and game changing technology.  I think they both are up to the challenge.

DDD reports steadily increasing earnings from operations with a 50% quarterly revenue growth yoy.  DDD recently acquired Bespoke Innovations, a company that 3D manufactures custom prosthetic limbs for amputees.  The Dutch firm TIM was acquired this past month.  TIM is a full service, on demand 3D manufacturer of custom parts in Europe.  Just announced is the acquisition of Rapidform of South Korea, a 3D scanning, reverse engineering and inspection firm.  Rapidform is expected to add six to nine cents a share to DDD’s earnings, a 10% boost.  Additionally, DDD has joined with the Smithsonian Institute to make 3D printed replicas of the Institute’s collection of artifacts.

SSYS isn’t sitting down on the job, either.  Their big move is merging with Objet Printing, an Israeli company that has supplied 3DPrinters to Israel Aerospace Industries.  This merger combines SSYS’s manufacturing capabilities with Objet’s rapid prototyping expertise into one firm – a potent combination.  This should add to SSYS’s record earnings reported last August.  NASA is using SSYS 3DPrinters to design complex parts for its next Mars rover.  Piper Aircraft has recently turned to the Fortus 3D Printer to help it build its new Altaire single engine jet.  Turns out, Piper can design specialized tools and parts in two thirds less time than traditional methods.  And we all know, time is money.

Another 3DPrinting player is Autodesk (NASDAQ: ADSK), a firm that develops the software to design a product and relies on partner companies to actually print the thing out.  ADSK is a leader in 3D design and engineering in a wide variety of industries.  The Autodesk 123D 3D printing software is free and generally elicits favorable reviews.  For example, an Apple iPhone or iPad user can take pictures of some thing, upload the images to the ADSK cloud, and voila, a 3D model is made.  The software allows the user to touch up the model before actually printing it.  The company, as an investment though, isn’t performing like DDD or SSYS.

As the above graph from Yahoo! Finance illustrates, ADSK has increased in share price in the past year, but has been outgunned by both DDD and SSYS.  ADSK has acquired other firms to boost its presence in cloud computing and CAD.  However, its 2Q earnings announcement in August disappointed and company guidance didn’t generate much excitement. ADSK reports that 72% of its net revenue comes from foreign countries.  Perhaps the economic slowdown in Europe and Asia contributes to less than great expectations.

3DPrinting is a viable, growing technology.  In August, 2011, Forbes quoted The Wohler’s Report that projected 3DPrinting growing from a $1.3 billion industry in 2010 to a $5.2 billion industry in 2020.  Commercial applications prove 3D designed and printed parts can be made faster and cheaper than traditional manufacturing methods.  I believe DDD and SSYS represent the best opportunities.  There will be bumps on the way for these two companies.  Given their current presence, patented technology and aggressive acquisitions, I believe investors would do well to invest in this part of the future.

Tickers: DDDADSKGESSYS http://ow.ly/eri4G 

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: DRM for 3DP? >

Most 3DPrinting has been done in industry or by hobbyists who share their designs freely online. Now Intellectual Ventures, the company run by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, has been issued a patent on a system that could prevent people from printing objects using designs they haven’t paid for.

The patent, issued Tuesday by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, is titled Manufacturing control system and describes methods for managing object production rights.”

The patent basically covers the idea of digital rights management, or DRM, for 3DPrinters. Like with eBooks that won’t open unless you pay Barnes & Noble to use its Nook Reader, with Myhrvold’s technology your 3DPrinter won’t print unless you’ve paid up.

You load a file into your printer, then your printer checks to make sure it has the rights to make the object, to make it out of what material, how many times, and so on,” says Michael Weinberg, a staff lawyer at the non-profit Public Knowledge, who reviewed the patent – “It’s a very broad patent.”

The patent isn’t limited to 3DPrinting, also known as additive manufacturing. It also covers using digital files in extrusion, ejection, stamping, die casting, printing, painting, and tattooing and with materials that include “skin, textiles, edible substances, paper, and silicon printing.”

This is an attempt to assert ownership over DRM for 3DPrinting. It’s ‘Let’s use DRM to stop unauthorized copying of things’,” says Weinberg, author of It Will Be Awesome If They Don’t Screw it Up – a 2010 white paper on how intellectual property rights could harm the development of 3DPrinting.But Weinberg points out the big loophole to all this: “nothing says manufacturers have to use DRM.”

The manufacturing control patent, number 8,286,236, was filed back in 2008 and issued on October 9th to Invention Science Fund I, an arm of Myhrvold’s company.

Myhrvold’s timing of the 3DPrinting revolution could be perfect. The company MakerBot just opened the first retail store dedicated to 3DPrinters in Manhattan’s trendy SoHo neighbourhood. The second by company DeezerMaker opened within days afterwards in California.

People have begun accepting there is going to be wide access to [3DPrinting] machines, and they are going to be able to create a wide range of things,” says Michaels. “People will want to control that. This patent is people thinking about how to do it.”

Adapted from: http://www.technologyreview.com/view/429566/nathan-myhrvolds-cunning-plan-to-prevent-3-d/

Related articles:

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: Update >

Industries that would almost certainly be put out of business by 3DPrinting, were it to become a household norm, are not going to go down without a fight, say legal experts. And what will be their weapon of choice? 

Intellectual property laws…

The presumed fear is that people will eventually be able to download CAD files, or create their own with advanced 3DScanners, of anything in the world: shoes, televisions, guitars, iPhones, and on, and on. Yes, 3DPrinter users would likely have to create these object piece-by-piece (as is currently the case). But in the end, they would still have a complete product. So just as the movie and music industries have gone after bit-torrent files and the sites that share them in their war against online piracy, so too will manufacturers attack CAD files and CAD file sharing, experts watching the space believe.

 

As incumbent companies begin to see small-scale 3DPrinting as a threat, they will inevitably attempt to restrict it by expanding intellectual property protections

” 

 

wrote Michael Weinberg, a staff lawyer for Public Knowledge, in a recently published white paper on 3DPrinting. “In doing so they will point to easily understood injuries to existing business models such as lost sales, lower profits, and reduced employment.”

Prepare for battle?

This is a cycle we’ve seen before. Weinberg notes that “incumbent companies” put up similar fights against the printing press, photo copiers, VCRs, and even the personal computer. In the case of the PC, writes Weinberg:

these interests pushed through laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that made it harder to usecomputers in new and innovative ways.”

The challenge for the fledgling 3DPrinting industry is to understand “how intellectual property law relates to 3DPrinting, and how changes might impact 3DPrinting’s future,” so that it will be ready to fight “before incumbents try to cripple 3DPrinting with restrictive intellectual property laws.”

While patent and trademark law may be used by established industries to trample 3DPrinting, both have a number of limitations that will make them difficult to use against home 3DPrinting, explains Weinberg. Instead, threatened industries will likely seek to strengthen copyright laws to make the recreation of objects — or even the creation of objects that perform the same function as a copyrighted item — illegal.

“Useful objects could be protected for decades after creation. Mechanical and functional innovation could be frozen by fears of massive copyright infringement lawsuits,” warns Weingberg. “Furthermore, articles that the public is free to recreate and improve upon today would become subject to inaccessible and restrictive licensing agreements.”

 

At the very least, says Weinberg, “rightsholders could insist that, in order to avoid liability, 3DPrinter manufacturers incorporate restrictive DRM that would prevent their printers from reproducing CAD designs with ‘do not copy’ watermarks.”

 

What next?

As mentioned, the goal of Weinberg’s paper is to prepare the 3DPrinting industry and its customers for a coming legal battle over this emerging technology. For the moment, however, 3DPrinting remains a niche.

 

If Weinberg is right, so-called incumbent companies will flex whatever muscles they can to stop that day from ever arriving…

Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/3d-printing-and-copyright-lawsuits/#ixzz294d3Vg9d

3DPrinting an EU Industrial Revival? >

  • EU paper promotes new tech to boost GDP from 16% to 20% of EU GDP by 2020
  • Manufacturing job losses 3 million since crisis
  • Advanced manufacturing markets to double by 2015

The decline in the European Union’s manufacturing is the center of the sights for The European Commission’s leaked paper seek by Reuters  asking countries to invest heavily in new technologies such as 3DPrinting.

The European Union’s main regulators are aiming to ensure that new technologies are exploited to cheapen manufacturing costs and increase production to combat the trends for diminishing output of the key manufacturing industries in Europe.

The paper, which outlines the bloc’s future industrial policy, said the commission wants to raise manufacturing from 16 percent to 20 percent of EU GDP by 2020 using new techniques such as 3DPrinting – the technology that enthusiasts calculate will revolutionise manufacturing, including electronics such as mobile phones, and save millions in costs.

The Commission also wants countries to invest heavily in advanced technologies such as industrial biotechnology – which uses living cells to make materials such as chemicals, detergents and paper.

The market for such technologies is tipped to grow by 50 percent from 646 billion euros to more than 1 trillion euros by 2015, the paper said.

Industrial production has declined 10 percent since the crisis and more than 3 million industrial jobs have been lost.

The car industry is among the hardest hit, with large over capacity in mid-market car makers in France, Spain and Italy: Total European car sales fell 6.6 percent in the period from January to August this year.

The paper indicates that the European Union has not exploited past emerging industries such as rechargeable lithium batteries. It says European firms hold more than 30 percent of the relevant patents “without any production of such batteries taking place in the EU”.

To reverse such trends the Commission proposes non-binding targets for manufacturing and investment, both public and private.

The European commissioner in charge of industrial policy Antonio Tajani (see profile link below) will launch the new proposals on Wednesday.

The policy will also promote green vehicles, smart grids, sustainable construction materials, and so-called key enabling technologies which include nanotechnology and photonics.’

_____________________________________________________________________

FOCUS: PERSON

Antonio TAJANI – European commissioner in charge of industrial policy

 

Born on 4 August 1953, Roma, Italy

  

Curriculum vitae (The MEP is solely responsible for the information published)

 

  • Graduate in law (La Sapienza University of Rome). Editor of ‘Il Settimanale’ (1982); presenter of Radio 1 news programme (1982); head of the Rome editorial office of the newspaper ‘Il Giornale’ (1983).
  • Spokesman for the Prime Minister (1994). Vice-chairman of the European People’s Party. Member of Rome City Council (since June 2001).
  • Member of the European Parliament (since 1994). Head of the Forza Italia delegation in the European Parliament.

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/2187/ANTONIO_TAJANI.html

 

More: 

http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/futurium/future/personalized-manufacturing-3d-printing-and-more
http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/10/08/eu-industrialpolicy-idINL6E8L8NYP20121008
http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/breaking-news/world/eu-sees-industrial-revival-through-3d-printing-and-biotech-20121009

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: 3DPrinting V’s Government? >

Maker Faire 2012 in New York last weekend was a great place to see, first hand, the products and processes behind a very promising technology that’s been receiving so much attention lately, and rightfully so. It’s clear to many that 3DPrinting isn’t merely a passing fad, but perhaps an evolutionary step in the field of manufacturing, if not revolutionary, and that has some people very nervous.

3DPrinting has the potential to shake up the consumer landscape as we know it.

Not today, not tomorrow, but down the line, home printing machines like those of RepRap, and Makerbot,  are only going to get more advanced and accessible. There will come a time when home users will be able to print everyday objects from home.

That’s an awesome thing, and perhaps scary to some.

3D Fan
 

3DPrinting has now captured headlines for just being itself – what it can do now, what it will do in the future – but just as many headlines are now being captured by 3DPrinting’s recent darker application’s, such as the hobbiest project to create a home 3DPrintable gun  by Defense Distributed.

“The Defense Distributed’s goal isn’t really about personal armament, it’s more the liberation of information,” they suggest in a video promoting Wiki Weapon. “It’s about living in a world where you just download for the thing you want to make in this life. As the printing press kind of revolutionised literacy, 3DPrinting is in its moment.”

Politics being what they are, you have to wonder if 3DPrinting will ultimately fulfill its potential of shaking up the industry and revolutionizing big industry, or if big industry, along with the government, will weigh the technology down with rules, regulations, and a ton of red tape. As CreativityGames.net points out, it’s only a matter of time before the lobbying for laws and restrictions begins.

“They put fear into people’s heads. These devices could be used by terrorists in malicious ways. Criminals could print guns and other weapons with them. Kids could make all manner of things they shouldn’t with them. Inevitably, someone does create something evil with one of these devices. Governments everywhere fall in line and enact laws heavily restricting their use. You now need a license to own one, and legally they must have restrictions on them that only allow them to print designs approved by the government…” – CreativityGames.net

Maker Faire 2012 showed some wonderful applications of this budding new technology – it would be shame if all the things we saw and the potential that exists were ultimately hamstrung by corporations and governments.’

Adapted From: http://hothardware.com/News/Threat-of-3D-Printing-Will-Governments-and-Big-Industry-Crush-a-Promising-Technology/