Formlabs, a Massachusetts-based company, produced a three-dimensional printer based on research completed by the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The printer, called Form 1, uses a technique called stereolithography which creates objects from a computer design by using a laser beam to solidify a liquid synthetic substance in the shape of the design. Formlabs used the crowd fundraising site Kickstarter to obtain over $2.9 million from over 2,000 users that they used to build and market the apparatus. Both Formlabs and Kickstarter are being sued by 3D Systems for patent infringement. This is the first lawsuit of its kind against Kickstarter.
3D Systems is the leading producer of printers creating three-dimensional entities, and received a patent for the laser stereolithography method in 1997. The company claims their patents were well-known across the industry. Formlabs’ printer is offered at a significantly lower price, around $2,300, than printers sold by 3D labs. The lawsuit alleges that because this lower price will undercut sales of 3D Systems’ equipment both Formlabs and Kickstarter, who received 5% of the money raised by Formlabs, are liable. Formlabs believes its printer output is superior to that of printers in their price range, and has commented that they are able to offer the product at a low price because of patent expirations. Neither Formlabs or Kickstarter have released a statement regarding the lawsuit.