Anker Settles Patent Fight with Slice Engineering

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Slice Engineering and Chinese multinational Anker Innovations (SZSE: 300866) have recently settled a lawsuit over patent infringement. Slice accused Anker’s AnkerMake M5C 3D printer and its hotend of infringing on one of its U.S. patents, which covers an adaptable high-performance extrusion head for fused filament fabrication systems.

In response, Anker disputed the validity of the patent and denied any infringement. The lawsuit, filed on September 13, 2023, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington by Anker, was resolved through a settlement after both parties negotiated.

Although the specific terms of the settlement have not been made public, Slice calls this “an unprecedented victory for a small U.S. company versus a massive, publicly traded international organization.”

Slice’s Co-founder and CEO Daniel Barousse said: “We are pleased that Anker changed course and decided to do the right thing after we accused them of infringing one of Slice’s utility patents. We believe the strength of our patent portfolio helped promptly facilitate a settlement, allowing us to focus on our core business and customers.”

Slice Engineering’s hotend offerings. Image courtesy of Slice Engineering.

According to the complaint documents, after Slice claimed that Anker’s 3D printer violated their patent, AnkerDirect, a U.S. subsidiary of Anker Innovations, asked the U.S. court to declare that its 3D printer did not infringe on Slice’s patent and to invalidate the patent itself. Slice had reported this claim to Amazon, where AnkerDirect was selling its 3D printers.

As a result, Amazon notified AnkerDirect on August 24, 2023, stating that the AnkerMake M5C 3D printer infringed on Slice’s patent. Amazon gave AnkerDirect three weeks to either join the Amazon APEX process, a resolution process for patent disputes, or file a legal action seeking a declaratory judgment to resolve the issue.

AnkerDirect chose to take legal action to protect its business on Amazon. It argued that removing its product listings from Amazon would significantly harm the business, as a substantial share of its sales occurred through the platform. In a move to protect its interests and competitive edge, AnkerDirect sought a court ruling to declare its noninfringement and the invalidity of the patent, citing “existing technology” and “prior art,” which means any evidence that the invention was already known before the patent was filed.

AnkerMake M5C 3D Printer. Image courtesy of Anker.

Slice has a reputation for innovation in the 3D printing industry, serving a wide range of customers globally. Its technology is designed to boost the performance of 3D printers. Based at the University of Florida Innovation Hub in Gainesville, Slice’s clients include renowned organizations such as the U.S. Navy, NASA, Oak Ridge National Lab, GE Healthcare, SpaceX, and Merck Pharmaceuticals. Its components have been used in significant projects like creating patient-specific medical devices, rapidly repairing mission-critical parts in war zones, and developing advanced safety features for bicycle helmets.

Meanwhile, Anker is a large conglomerate based in Shenzhen, China. Founded in 2011 by Steven Yang, Anker has become a global leader in consumer electronics, including mobile charging accessories, audio/video electronics, and smart home devices. With over 1,000 employees and roughly 140 million customers in more than 100 countries worldwide, Anker has filed over 3,000 patent applications and holds more than 1,200 issued patents.

While Anker has a significant patent portfolio of its own, it has faced multiple patent infringement disputes in recent years. Besides the case with Slice Engineering, it has ongoing lawsuits with Comarco Wireless Systems over allegations of patent infringement related to wireless charging technology, Powermat Technologies on patents concerning power supply systems, Throughtek over patents for networked monitoring devices, and Multimodal on patents for various technological innovations.

Patent disputes are not uncommon for large tech companies and reflect the competitive nature and complexities of the tech industry. However, it adds depth to the recent settlement with Slice.

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