3D Systems is suing Form Labs and Kickstarter for patient infringement. While the patent in question covers stereolithography and does not effect many of the hobbiest (extruder) printers on the market, as 3D printers have become more mainstream patent litigation and digital rights management (DRM) will significantly impact their use. The EFF has weighed in with a terrific statement on why keeping 3D printing open is essential to continued advancements.
While many core patents restricting 3D printing have expired or will soon expire, there is a risk that “creative” patent drafting will continue to lock up ideas beyond the 20-year terms of those initial patents or that patents will restrict further advances made by the open hardware community. The incremental nature of innovation in 3D printing makes it particularly unsuitable for patenting, as history has shown.