The ORNL SkyBAAM patent attempt was successfully challenged by the inventor of HangPrinter.

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Remember the legal battle between Torbjørn Ludvigsen, the inventor of the HangPrinter, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) over the ‘SkyBAAM’ 3D printing patent? Well, there’s an update, and it seems that Ludvigsen’s defense has been successful.

In 2014, Ludvigsen introduced the HangPrinter, an open-source FFF delta-style 3D printer that doesn’t require a frame. It gained attention and popularity through his work with the RepRap project. Fast-forward to January 2022, ORNL’s patent application for their Sky Big Area Additive Manufacturing (SkyBAAM) technology was approved.

But in October 2022, Ludvigsen filed for a reexamination of ORNL’s patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). He presented his analysis and requested a review of ORNL’s patent. In January 2023, his reexamination application was granted, and the USPTO agreed that Ludvigsen raised new questions of patentability.

The HangPrinter patent battle started when ORNL, a federally funded research and development center, got their SkyBAAM patent approved. However, it received criticism from open-source advocates like Dr. Joshua Pearce and RepRap Founder Dr. Adrian Bowyer. They pointed out the similarities between SkyBAAM and the HangPrinter.

Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, Ludvigsen hired legal representation and challenged ORNL’s patent with the USPTO. In a recent blog post, Ludvigsen shared that the USPTO agreed with his challenge and rejected the original claims of ORNL’s patent. The revised claims are narrower and don’t cover any existing HangPrinters.

Ludvigsen’s goal was not to alienate for-profit companies from the community but to make space for more of them. He said, “This patent case was fought to make room for more [for-profit companies] by making sure there’s plenty of low hanging fruit left that everybody and nobody owns.”

He plans to continue expanding the world of open source by giving his HangPrinter developments as gifts to everyone and keeping the community open.

The ORNL’s original SkyBAAM patent described a concrete 3D printer with a nozzle attached to pulleys controlled by base stations. Ludvigsen and others questioned the validity of the patent, as the HangPrinter had been discussed online since 2014. Dr. Bowyer highlighted that at least 13 of the SkyBAAM’s 20 claims were present in the HangPrinter. He also criticized the trend of patenting established open-source designs, which hinders innovation.

In conclusion, Ludvigsen’s defense against ORNL’s SkyBAAM patent has been successful, with the USPTO rejecting the original claims and accepting narrower ones. This victory ensures that the HangPrinter and similar open-source projects can continue to thrive in the 3D printing community.

The recent dispute over a 3D printing patent has shed light on the importance of open-source innovation and the challenges faced by individuals and small companies when dealing with patent infringement claims.

The story begins with Torbjørn Ludvigsen, the creator of the open-source Hangprinter concept, which uses a cable-based system to enable large building-style 3D printing. Ludvigsen’s Hangprinter concept was freely available for anyone to use and modify, and it gained a significant following within the 3D printing community.

However, Ludvigsen’s Hangprinter concept caught the attention of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), a research facility owned by the U.S. Department of Energy. Seeing the potential of the concept, ORNL filed a patent application for their version of the 3D printing system, which they called SkyBAAM.

Ludvigsen, unhappy with ORNL’s patent filing, decided to challenge it. He launched a crowdfunding campaign, “Help Keep Hangprinter Free,” to raise funds for legal expenses. Thanks to the support from the 3D printing community and organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Public Interest Patent Law Institute (PIPLUIS), Ludvigsen was able to hire an intellectual property lawyer to represent him.

The lawyer worked tirelessly to invalidate or narrow down the patent through an ex parte reexamination process. The aim was to demonstrate that the modifications made by ORNL were obvious to anyone familiar with construction and the Hangprinter concept. The lawyer’s efforts paid off, as the claims made by ORNL were rejected, and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) accepted the request for a narrowed down patent.

The revised patent now only covers a specific design path that builds upon the Hangprinter concept. Ludvigsen states that the new claims are easily worked around and largely undesirable. Furthermore, the narrowed patent only applies to 3D printers that possess all the outlined features simultaneously. This means that if a 3D printer incorporates only one or two of these features, it can likely avoid infringing on the patent by making slight deviations or adjustments.

Ludvigsen’s successful challenge to ORNL’s patent demonstrates the power of community support and the importance of open-source innovation. It also highlights the need for individuals and small companies to be vigilant and proactive in protecting their intellectual property rights.

Moving forward, Ludvigsen plans to use the remaining funds from the crowdfunding campaign to continue advocating for open-source innovation and to be better prepared to face similar challenges in the future. His determination to “Keep HangPrinting Free” serves as an inspiration to others in the additive manufacturing industry.

In conclusion, the story of Ludvigsen’s battle against ORNL’s patent filing underscores the significance of open-source innovation and the hurdles faced by individuals and small companies in protecting their ideas. It is a reminder that the pursuit of innovation should be inclusive, collaborative, and driven by the collective interest of advancing technology for the greater good.

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