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Metal 3D Printing Intellectual Property: Desktop Metal Files Suit Against Markforged

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As it matures, the 3D printing industry is becoming an increasingly active space in terms of its patent landscape. Intellectual property is a critical concern in the dynamic industry, with new technologies coming to market and hundreds of patents issued and, for the last couple of years, more than a thousand published annually.

IP lawsuits have not been uncommon in 3D printing, with several cases having made the headlines over the last few years as more players enter the space and provide a complex IP perspective. Courts around the world have been working to keep up with the changing patent landscape and what that means from a legal perspective. Patent damages are a real concern, and the protection of intellectual property is a serious consideration.

This week, immediately on the heels of announcing its latest major funding round, Burlington, MA-based Desktop Metal filed a lawsuit against Watertown, MA-based Markforged as well as former Desktop Metal intern Matiu Parangi. The case was filed March 19, 2018 in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts and covers patent violation as well as trade secret misappropriation.

At the heart of the suit is the claim that two patents held by Desktop Metal have been infringed upon by the Metal X 3D printer, which Markforged introduced in early 2017. These two patents, No. 9,815,118 issued November 14, 2017, and No. 9,833,839 issued on December 5, 2017, are titled, respectively, “Fabricating Multi-Part Assemblies” and “Fabricating an Interface Layer for Removable Support.” The full story is available in the in-depth case filing, which I accessed here. The Complaint includes a full history of the companies’ relationships and details of the alleged trade secret misappropriation, suspected to have been an exchange of information between Parangi and his brother, who works at Markforged. Desktop Metal is seeking a jury trial and a laid-out series of compensations for perceived damages.

While both companies responded to inquiry, neither was able to provide additional comment at this time due to the sensitive nature of a current legal case.

Desktop Metal parts seen at RAPID + TCT 2017 with the ceramic layer clearly visible [Photo: Sarah Goehrke]

Desktop Metal has provided brief background on the case, including a statement from CEO Ric Fulop:

“Metal 3D printing is an exciting, quickly growing and rapidly evolving industry and, as a pioneer in the space, Desktop Metal welcomes healthy and vibrant competition. When that competition infringes on our technology, however, we have a duty to respond. We believe Markforged products clearly utilize technology patented by Desktop Metal and we will do what is necessary to protect our IP and our Company.”

[Updated to Add:]

On Friday, March 23, Markforged CEO Greg Mark issued a statement in the company blog, reading in part:

“On Monday, a competitor filed a lawsuit against us, including various far-fetched allegations. Markforged categorically denies these allegations and we will be formally responding shortly in our own court filing. Markforged is a thriving business with a dedicated team of passionate people, and we’re going to continue to execute and deliver amazing products to our customers.”

Among the exhibits included from Desktop Metal was an article I wrote following an interview with Markforged at CES 2018. Due to that inclusion, I will also refrain from commenting further on this case.

 Discuss intellectual property and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.

 

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