In a stunning display of madness, makerbot industries files a patent application on a mechanism clearly derived from content created by their users. What’s almost worse is the article they wrote praising the invention, presumably while they were filing the paperwork.
Thing #42250 “Replicator 2 Extruder Upgrade” by whpthomas, is one of these very useful designs. It’s based on an extruder mod from Thingiverse superstar emmett, who based his design on one from another star user, whosawhatsis. The basic idea of this series of designs is to use a spring-loaded arm to squeeze the filament between the drive gear and a bearing.
After extensive testing, we’ve decided that this approach is too good to ignore. […]
We will be selling an upgrade kit that involves all the parts, including the printed part online this spring. We could have waited to tell you until we have enough to start selling them, but we decided that it would be good to tell folks about the mod.
Definitely too good to ignore… And apparently too good to let their competitors use as well, whatever the content creators want.
For those counting, that’s 3 separate thingiverse users (whpthomas, emmett, whosawhatsis) who presumably hold some rights to the creative commons licensed designs makerbot is patenting.
You can read the whosawhatsis’ thoughts here.
EDIT: apparently this isn’t a terribly new thing. You can read a more thorough overview of makerbots history here.
Keeping in mind that I am in no way a lawyer…
The creative common Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. It’s a very liberal license. If makerbot was selling the designs that would be completely fine, as long as they
provide appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
But they’re not just selling it. They’re patenting it. That means they can sue anyone who tries to use a similar design or method. Not just if they use that file, but any similar methods of feeding filament.
The creative commons is very clear on what you’re allowed to do to restrict other people from using CC licensed works, namely
No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.
A patent is definitely a legal term restricting what you can do with the work. It violates the CC license, which means either any of the contributers could theoretically revoke makerbots permission to use it.
In actuality, makerbot has a large legal budget, and their terms of service probably say something about providing a license to the content anyway. They’ve used semi-legal trickery to steal thingiverse users designs, and without a large legal fund there isn’t really any recourse.
Or at least that’s my laymens understanding of the situation. Some people have suggest that the prior art will make the patent application fail. But it’s not clear one way or the other.
Reddit user obsidianechoes gives an excellent overview of how to submit a prior art claim, which may be our best shot at getting this particular patent overturned.
Makerbot has shown time and time again that they’re willing to screw over the community. Are we really that surprised? But their marketing budget and sleek design continues to convince the uninformed to buy makerbot. To add insult to injury, their printer is overpriced, has reliability problems, and compounds that with sub par support.
For me, personally, I look at a move to closed source as the ultimate betrayal. When I was forced out, it was a normal, if unfortunate, clash of wills where one person must stay and one person must go. I swallowed my ego and left, because I knew that the company I founded would carry my ideals further into the world. Regardless of our differences, I had assumed that Bre would continue to follow the principles that we founded the company on, and the same principles that played a major part in the success of our company. Moving from an open model to a closed model is contrary to everything that I stand for, and as a co-founder of MakerBot Industries, it makes me ashamed to have my name associated with it.
Zach Hoeken – MakerBot vs. Open Source – A Founder Perspective
With apologies to Zach for continuing to associate his name with it.
Makerbot is an increasingly toxic company, and stealing designs so openly frankly implies that their management has their heads up their asses. But as long as non-technical people continue to be won over by marketing hype and pretty cases they’re going to continue to drag us down. Not surprising from a company that sat on the patents that make modern 3D printing possible until they expired, freeing us up for the current 3D printing revolution. It demonstrates how a few well placed patents can cause an entire industry to stagnate.