Back in January Shapeways participated in a 3D printing conference at the US Patent and Trademark Office in Washington DC. Alongside representatives from EOS, ExOne, MakerBot, Stratasys and 3D Systems we briefed staff from the USPTO and other interested parties on the history, present and possible futures of 3D printing, and how they might interact with the patent office.
It was a fantastic forward thinking move by the patent office to recognize that this is an area of growth that needs to be nurtured to realize the full potential. That while still protecting the intellectual property of those engaging in meaningful research, we do not close off the field with broad, over reaching patents that could really hamper the growth. Along with the representatives of the USPTO and companies involved in 3D printing, there were also interested stakeholders looking at the world of 3D printing and patents from various angles, including those that might try and control 3D printing with a digital rights management system, and others such as the EFF are looking to keep 3D printing as open as possible.