Many 3D Printing Patents Are Expiring Soon: Here’s A Round Up & Overview of Them [3D Printing Industry]
3D printing is a 30-year old technology that is currently entering the mainstream, to great fanfare. Despite the 3D printing industry’s double-digit (%) growth over the past year, the use of 3D printers has not yet become commonplace. The question is: Is something holding it back? Conventional wisdom is that intellectual property has driven innovation by creating competition, which fosters advances in technology because of the need for IP workarounds. Our Founding Fathers here in the US were so committed to this idea that they built IP protection into the Constitution. Today, any big company will tell you that the limited monopoly of a patent or copyright gives them a head start and ultimately fosters innovation and competition.
Recently, some innovators have challenged the conventional wisdom, arguing that IP stifles innovation. Applying this thinking to 3D printing, they argue that patents have held back innovation in 3D printing technology and thus because companies are afraid of getting sued, they do not spend the resources to research and develop the technology. This minimizes competition, which keeps prices high and builds barriers to keep new entrants and affordable products out of the market.
Others argue that the only thing holding 3D printing back is the technology itself––printers are either too slow, too cumbersome or incapable of printing objects that people actually want, partly due to limitations in materials. Regardless of where one stands in this debate, the threat of a lawsuit is certainly real and the 3D Printing Patent Wars, like the Smart Phones Wars, are probably not too far down the pike.