Today I saw some sad news. Apparently, a patent has been rewarded to someone in the U.S. for the HangPrinter, someone who is not Torbjorn Ludvigsen, the original creator who released the project as Open Source back in 2014.
Yesterday, Torbjorn shared on twitter that he has released a gofundme to help fight the legal side of things to keep the HangPrinter free. If he fails, this could mean that he himself has to pay the patent holder to use his own design!
We’ve talked about the HangPrinter a few times over the years, even including it in an issue of Make: magazine at one point. It’s a pretty cool concept that Torbjorn has been refining and promoting for years. It is really sad to think that someone else is going to stifle Torbjorn’s work in the interest of trying to make some money.
The biggest issue here, and the one that we should discuss as a community is how to deal with patents and open source projects. There tends to be a gut reaction that nothing should be patented (at least, I have that reaction), but then something like this happens and we start discussing how you can patent simply to protect.
I’ll admit. I’m no expert on the patent system. The whole thing turns me off, and I’m not a business trying to sell a product. However, I do recall Limor Fried talking with President Obama about issues of patent. While they largely discuss software patent, the article does dive into what the Open Source community has begun to do in order to combat this kind of thing.