I love the work or Cory Doctorow but I'm not sure about his latest

(Brian Evans) #1

I love the work or Cory Doctorow but I’m not sure about his latest piece on boing boing regarding the Makerbot Patent-a-thon. I think his comment, “a product that really is exceptionally good, largely open, and that enables a lot of personal creativity and entrepreneurial experimentation” is laughable or in the least questionable. Yet I whole heartedly agree with the comment, “They could pledge to always include Thingiverse items in the prior art disclosures for their patents.” I’ve been thinking that I really ought to migrate to another platform myself not that I make commercially viable things. Overall I see this piece as a bit of hipster loyalty with Makerbot and doesn’t address many of the other patent issues such as @Richard_Horne 's multi material shenanigans but it does present some valuable and informed opinions on patents in general.

(Laird Popkin) #2

Exactly right.

(Stephanie A) #3

Lol he’s worse than an apple fan defending the rectangle with rounded corners patent. The fact that he thinks that makerbot makes a good product invalidates the rest of his opinions as he is quite obviously biased.
Makerbot did make their patent broad enough to cover nearly every extruder design out there!
and stating that they are 99% open is just as laughable. We are not angry at makerbot because they filed patents, anyone can file patents and so long as it’s new and novel and not stealing work, it’s fine. We are angry because they took open source work and patented it. They are directly harming innovation and damaging the open source community that created their company. The community that gave them upgrades to their designs. The community that supplied them with hardware, firmware and software. It would be like linux suddenly going closed source on their kernel and patenting innovations created by open source developers.
this guy is exactly the type of person who would be okay with patenting the gene which was found to be accredited to breast cancer.

(Brook Drumm) #4

Does the provisional patent predate the prior art or not?

(Michael Hohensee) #5

@Brook_Drumm another question is whether the provisional patent actually describes the same thing that they’re trying to patent with the updated application. They don’t get to backdate their application by merely filing a provisional patent.

(Laird Popkin) #6

In what case is MBI trying to patent the community’s work? So far the cases look to me like mainly misreading of the patent application, in that they’re reading the section documenting the current state of the art (“prior art”) specifically because MBI isn’t claiming that, and thinking MBI is claiming that. For example, MBI didn’t patent bed leveling, or spring tensioned extruders, they patented using deflection of the nozzle in order to detect when it collides with a print or the print bed, and the use of a bi-stable lever, which are enhancements that arguably MBI invented. But Whosa watsis’ design, etc., weren’t patented by MBI, they were documented by MBI as prior art specifically because MBI wasn’t making any claim to his work.

The confusion is understandable, because patents are pretty opaque documents, But propagating that confusion doesn’t do anyone any good.

IMO, it’s better to avoid the claims that they’re “stealing” anyone’s IP, because they don’t appear to be, and making false claims weakens your case. The real argument is that you don’t like MBI patenting their work, because you prefer that companies share their work. And that’s a fine discussion to have.

(Stephanie A) #7

Explain to me what a bistable lever is. Because this has been on extruders for years before this patent.

(Nathaniel Stenzel) #8

Regarding the extruder patent, the only difference between the makerbot patent and the thingiverse design is a lever. I friggin lever. I am pretty sure a caveman would have been smart enough to use a lever. A patent protects against people using similar designs. The thingiverse design and the makerbot patent are similar. Cavemen probably used levers. The patent is therefore invalid. It would be totally laughable if the patent said simply “the use of a lever to open up the spring tensioned idler bearing which holds the filament in place in a 3D printer’s extruder”, don’t you agree? Yet that is what the whole thing boils down to.

(Whosawhatsis) #9

Notice that @Cory_Doctorow specifically mentions whpthomas’s version of the mechanism, and points out that it was posted “a year after the Makerbot preliminary filing”. Guess what it was also posted (more than) a year after. http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:15718

It’s true that the patent mentions a bistable mechanism, but that’s demonstrated in even earlier thingiverse designs like this one: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:7129

(Matt Miller) #10

I almost stopped reading at “…while companies like Makerbot, that are almost nearly all open, are demonized for making a small part closed.”

Makerbot is 100% closed.

Open hardware: no
Open software: no
Open electronics: no

Cory managed to get it 100% wrong. I don’t know him. Heard of him though. And I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here.

Lets put aside the patent idea for second. MBI has crept slowly away from open source, away from the community that supports them and helps create value for them via thingiverse. This path they are now on is one that is in direct conflict with oshw and their community. Continuing down this path will only serve to further alienate those who share their designs. Thd flight from thingiverse is now real, and this only has downside for MBI.

Appearances matter. Even if everything that they have done is above-board, it appears that MBI is leveraging thingiverse for ideas and appropriating content at will. And in the court of public opinion it’s difficult to prove a negative, especially once the trust is gone.

Unfortunately, the trust is gone.

Open-source companies can flourish. Look at @SparkFun_Electronics as an example of how to do this right. MBI has an inferior product that is flawed right out of the box (check their google group, it’s a fun read), and had to go closed source to protect that $10 million in VC.

I really don’t care about MBI, they’re an evolutionary dead-end and they’ve managed to prove it.

But back to the patents. They will be granted the patents that they applied for. Of that I have little doubt. And even if prior art manages to make it in front of an examiner (it wont) they wont know wtf they’re looking at and grant the patent anyway. And I’m willing to bet the licenses specified on the thingiverse objects in question are worthless and are obviated by the thingiverse ToS.

Happy days.

(Camerin hahn) #11

@Stephanie_A Bi-stable implies that you don’t need pressure to keep it open. It “Clicks” to the open state, then “Clicks” to the engaged state. The one that @Whosa_whatsis made is not bi-stable as you need to keep pressure on it to keep it open.

This would not limit people from using the design for the MK7 extruder, but it would limit the potential changes.

(Nathaniel Stenzel) #12

@Cory_Doctorow Were ya paid much for that defense of MakerBot?

(Nathaniel Stenzel) #13

@Camerin_hahn bi-stable lever or not, it is hard to tell what sort of crap the courts would let a patent holder get away with considering such a patent. Most of us do not have the time to read all of the pages of this patent, but alot of us know that the courts and patent office for the USA are seriously messed up. There is a good reason for fear considering MBI + US Patent Office + US courts = alot of potential problems for the 3D printing community.

(Camerin hahn) #14

@NathanielStenzel the point of a patent is to protect innovations that are rightfully yours. There are industries where the lengths of the patent are necessary. For instance in the medical industry, the cost of developing a drug is in the millions, you patent it before you go to FDA approval, and that takes 10 years, when you get through approval you only have 5 years to make back you millions of dollars you spent before someone else can take it and make generics. If there were no patents, no one would invest the literally millions of dollars it takes to develop a drug and get it approved.

In the consumer electronics field, invention and approval time is in the scale of months, not years. You do need to see the big picture on this. Yes in this case it is wrong to lock down an industry for 15 years, but in the case of medicine it is quite different. And each are bound by the same laws.

Also patents don’t prevent people from making things, it entitles you to license out the technology. Yes anyone could use any patent you would just need to negotiate the price for using the tech. If you do not license the patent it allows the holder to sue you and recoup the losses.

(Laird Popkin) #15

MBI was only patenting the use of a bi-stable lever on a spring tensioned extruder. They didn’t patent the extruder, or spring tensioning. It’s a minor enhancement, and it’s the sort of thing that engineering companies patent thousands of times a year, in order to build up a defensive patent portfolio. A bi-stable lever is one that is ‘stable’ at either end of movement, not in the middle, so in the case of MBI’s new extruder it’s resting points are either ‘open’ or ‘closed’, which is different from the spring tensioned extruders that are ‘closed’ when at rest, and you have to press the lever to hold it open. It’s not a huge improvement, certainly not a fundamental patent. But then, 99% of patents filed are like this, small enhancements.

To clarify one point, the patent doesn’t just “mention” a bi-stable mechanism, that is the only thing that the patent claimed, so if you ignore that you ignore the point of the patent. And the well known extruders on Thingiverse don’t have bi-stable levers.

If the “Geared Stepper filament pusher for MK5 extruder” is relevant prior art, that’s interesting, of course. I haven’t seen this extruder design before, and it’s not described as using a bi-stable lever, but it looks like it might be bi-stable. And it’s from 2011, so it could well be a bi-stable lever on a spring tensioned extruder that predates MBI’s work on the new extruder. But even then, it’s a bit of a stretch to argue that MBI intentionally took the community’s design and stole it - it seems more likely to me that the engineer who added the bi-stable lever to the extruder (based on Emmet and Whosa watsis’ designs) didn’t see this relatively obscure extruder design, so he invented something that MiseryBot had already invented. That happens fairly often in patenting, and doesn’t mean that anyone is stealing, just that they didn’t know about someone else’s work.

(Brian Evans) #16

My reading of the extruder was one where the lever locks in the open position to remove filament and locks in the closed position to provide tension on the filament… bistable meaning to resist in two directions rather than simply a spring loaded lever. This as far as I know is novel yet clearly none of us care kind of like RichRap’s point in article on the RepRap blog about the conveyor belt platform that is now patented but none us care because it sucked. (Edit: D’oh didn’t scroll down far enough… oh well)

(Brian Evans) #17

I could care less about the open vs closed thing TBH. If youre a closed business great, make a good product and the community will stand by you. Take the Form 1… great machine, great design, and great prints, 100% closed. Thats ok. Simplify 3D has been getting a lot of traction of late for its closed source printing software and that’s ok. I have personally bought into the Apple ecosystem not out of fanboism but rather because they make what I think are damn good machines even at the cost.

If this was the case with Makerbot it would be different but instead it mostly comes down to hype… a hipster image and a catchy name built off a promise of an open ecosystem for the maker community but what it delivers is an average machine for an above average price. And as a company it comes along and is trying to patent work that is not original and instead comes from a community of people like us sharing the things we make on our own time in good faith and frankly that just sucks.

(Francis Courchesne) #18

@Laird_Popkin They are also patenting removable extrusion tips which is a major shows stopper.

(Stephanie A) #19

@Whosa_whatsis did someone submit http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:7129 as prior art yet?

(Terence Tam) #20

My understanding of patent law is that you can be found to infringe even if ONE claim on a patent, you are technically infringing. You do not have to infringe on ALL claims for an infringement suit to be bought:


So, in reading the patent, any spring loaded bearing extruder that can be locked open would be in violation of Claim 1. It doesn’t even have to be a “bistable lever”. Finding examples of designs filed before October 2012 that shows an spring ball bearing extruder that can lock open will therefore constitute as prior art.