Blowback Over 3D Systems Suit?

3D Printing & Imaging
Blowback Over 3D Systems Suit?

Screen Shot 2012-12-04 at 1.08.36 PM


In the wake 3D Systems’ patent infringement suit against Kickstarter and Formlabs, celebrated 3D printing artist Joshua Harker has removed a 3D Systems shout out from his Kickstarter campaign.

Joshua’s Crania Anatomica Filigre project, a beautifully ornate 3D printed skull, has become an icon  of the consumer 3D printing world. It was also Kickstarter’s top funded sculpture project of all time. His new Anatomica di Revolutis projects depicts a winged skull with a pull-chain with provocative imagery he says symbolizes the 3D printing revolution. It’s a gorgeous work of art.  Says Joshua:  “Each component is designed to assemble together to present a larger narrative about the developing 3rd Industrial Revolution. The fully assembled sculpture features all 3 pieces & symbolizes liberty & prosperity through an empowered participatory populace.”

As part of a video compilation for his Kickstarter campaign, Joshua included a who’s who of the 3D printing industry, each of whom says “join the revolution.” The vanguard included 3D systems. But Joshua doesn’t find 3D Systems’ suit so revolutionary so he cut them from his honor roll of 3D printing heavies.  In a letter to his backers on Kickstarter he explains his move:

I am not a lawyer & I have no idea what’s happening behind the scenes or of the overall validity of claims for either side. I can only say that my message of revolution is about empowering the individual & the technologies & networks which support that. The inclusion of all the big name players & brightest stars was intended to demonstrate a sense of community in the field.

So, I have decided to remove 3D Systems from my presentation. This is not an attempt to sway opinion or harm them in any way but rather to distance myself from looking like I’m making some kind of endorsement or have an affiliation without knowing all the facts, especially given the context, timing, & place where this is all playing out. With the press release already live I felt the need to leave a statement of reference.

While this whole thing is not directly about me, it has put me in a shit situation given what I’m professing as well as the integrity & credibility I wish to keep. This may illustrate better than I could have ever presented the need for supporting the “DIY Makers” & the technologies that enable their innovation & independence.  Seems like this revolution may have some teeth but unfortunately it’s already looking to feed on itself. Time will clear the field.

[Emphasis is original]

In a post about Josh’s decision, Josh Mings wonders if 3D Systems has injected a dose of fear into the DIY community. What do you think? Will 3D Systems’ suit come back to haunt it?

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18 thoughts on “Blowback Over 3D Systems Suit?

  1. Ben Brockert (@wikkit) says:

    Man, I bet $2.51B 3D Systems is quite devastated that they got unlisted from a $31k kickstarter.

    1. Tyson Haverkort says:

      I bet they’re not thrilled about the bad press on the front page of Make…

      1. davidcdean says:

        I doubt that either are a huge deal to them, given the context. From their point of view, they’re defending valuable intellectual property that has real revenue potential.

        That said, I find most any suit like this distasteful, and feel they should be avoided when possible. Was there no middle ground to be had? Perhaps a reasonable, per-device licensing arrangement? Perhaps there was a failed offer I didn’t read about…

  2. lrwickerdesign says:

    It seems to me Josh was just doing what he said. He doesn’t want to take sides or appear to endorse either view. His original statement makes it clear which side he would be on in any event. I doubt his intentions are any more than he claims, so I’m sure 3D Systems couldn’t care less. It’s too bad litigation seems to be the go-to solution these days, I’m with David above with regard to that.

  3. Joshua Harker says:

    Wow- I’ve gotten a lot of emails about this since I posted my decision to remove 3DS from my presentation. For the record, Formlabs was asked to participate as well but having just completed their campaign days before, I was understandably not a high priority. Officially, I am not against 3D Systems protecting what’s legally theirs. That said, I am passionately for innovation & see current patent laws as an obstacle in this new era of technology & networks. Regardless, if Formlabs ripped 3DS off then they’re gonna have to deal with it. If not… well you can fill in the blanks & paint your own picture of what’s going on, you don’t need my insight or opinion on the matter. As for Kickstarter getting pulled into this I actually think this may be a good thing in that it was bound to happen sooner or later. They’ve got the resources to go toe to toe & set the legal precedent for how they operate into the future. We’ll see how this all plays out. I did what I did to clarify my position of neutrality. I found it exceptionally uncomfortable to be running a campaign on a platform that I wholeheartedly support that is being sued by a participant in my project, as well as the conflict it presented with my message. None of this was evident to me when I asked for participation. I also did not want to sweep it under the rug without stating my reasoning or act like I was oblivious. There really wasn’t a win/win option in all of this for me. 1st commenter (Ben) is right, I’m sure 3DS could give a **** about me in the grand scheme of things… that’s part of the problem in my book.

  4. MAKE | Best of 2012: 3D Printed Objects says:

    […] might be even cooler. As a side note, the project’s Kickstarter campaign kicked up a little controversy by wading into the 3D Systems lawsuit […]

  5. Best of 2012: 3D Printed Objects says:

    […] might be even cooler. As a side note, the project’s Kickstarter campaign kicked up a little controversy by wading into the 3D Systems lawsuit […]

  6. MAKE | A Conversation With 3D Artist Joshua Harker says:

    […] your massively publicized “pull” of 3D Systems from your kickstarter campaign – are you fearful that lawsuits will continue […]

  7. A Conversation With 3D Artist Joshua Harker - IT Clips says:

    […] your massively publicized “pull” of 3D Systems from your kickstarter campaign – are you fearful that lawsuits will continue […]

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Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.

View more articles by Stett Holbrook