The Future of 3D Printing and Christmas at Risk
Stratasys and 3D Systems Sue Santa Claus for Patent Infringement
Two longtime industry leaders have recently filed two separate lawsuits ordering North Pole LLC to refrain developing and distributing FDM and SLA 3D printing technologies due to allegations of copyright infringement.
The lawsuit comes as a surprise and marks Santa Claus’s largest legal battle since 1992 when Tyco Corp claimed over 150MM in damages after North Pole LLC distributed teddy bears with commands similar to the ‘Tickle Me Elmo’ doll’s squeeze and giggle function. However, this time around, in addition to the millions of children at risk of being left without Christmas gifts, the lawsuit could seriously change the future of desktop 3D printing.
While it is very early in the legal process, parts of Stratasys and 3D Systems’ initial complaints read like they could be made against just about any 3D printing company. It is unclear as to why exactly Stratasys and 3D Systems chose North Pole LLC. Even more of a mystery is why now? The fact that Santa’s elves have been developing and distributing their own desktop 3D printers for years is common knowledge. The argument could be made that the two largest companies in 3D printing are afraid of desktop technologies upending their high-priced professional solutions. This makes very little sense, however, since the rise of desktop printing has greatly benefitted the professional industry, including sales and stock valuations for both companies.
Nevertheless, intentions to commandeer the desktop movement can be seen by Stratasy’s poaching of ex-maker evangelist elf Bre Pettis. Pettis, former Head Elf of Community outreach for North Pole LLC and CEO of Makerbot, have declined to comment on his recent change of heart.
Spokesmen from both respective corporations made the message clear that they were putting on the gloves for this bout against Santa and his little helpers.
“IP infringement discourages companies from investing in innovation,” said David Reis, Stratasys Ltd. CEO. “Stratasys pioneered 3D printing, and invests millions of dollars each year to develop our technologies. In 2012 alone, Stratasys Ltd invested $33.3 million or 9.3 percent of its revenues in R&D. We intend to protect that investment.”
3D Systems claims that Santa’s unlawful practices have caused “immediate and irreparable injury and damage to 3D Systems” by making and distributing its own SLA printers during the holiday season.
The North Pole has fired back with what seems to be the story it will be sticking to throughout what legal experts are predicting to be years of cross-Arctic litigation:
Head Elf of North Pole LLC R&D, Terry Wowsers was quoted earlier saying that it (NPLLC) was an early adopter of 3D printing, reacting to “increasing demand from kids for customized presents.”
“The rest of the elves and I—many of which are adding new value to the technology everyday—never thought to get a patent on our unique creations. Here at ‘The Pole’, everything is open source. That’s just how we believe innovation best serves elves, and humans, around the world.”
Head Elf for Manufacturing, McJingles Bowyer added.
It is difficult to tell who really came up with the technologies first, but having patents in hand is a huge help to Stratasys and 3D Systems’ cases as it was for Tyco Corp back in 1992. Indeed, the natural lack of Troll in Elven blood could end up costing the North Pole big time yet again.
Further concerns in the North Pole are directed to the kids that asked for desktop printers for Christmas. Wowsers ended the press conference with an appeal to the emotions surrounding the holiday season, “These are good kids that deserve what they asked for. We might be forced to shelve deliveries of desktop 3D printers this year, and that would be unprecedented. Even if we do deliver, how can we guarantee that these kids won’t be taken to court as well? The Pole is not equipped for that kind of legal battle.”
As threatening as the trials may seem, it is unlikely that Stratasys and 3D systems will continue to prosecute anybody else, even if they win. Or at least, that is what one would hope.
Stay tuned for more updates.
3D printing may sound like science fiction, but it’s a game changer empowering us all to hack the physical world, today! Our mission is to help accelerate the adoption of 3D printing by making it so simple it becomes second nature… like reading this article online, or checking out our website.
This post was written by Roberto Contreras, originally posted on our blog at THRE3D.