In recent years, patent wars in the 3D printing industry have been such that one company has accused the other of breaching the patents and the case went to court for several years – and at the end the parties reached some kind of behind-the-scenes agreement. This time, however, it looks completely different … One of the largest players on the 3D printing market – Desktop Metal, received a preliminary order from a German court preventing the American-Chinese company SprintRay – specializing in the production of photopolymer 3D printers, from selling its dental systems in Germany. Moreover, there is a real chance that the courts of other countries in the European Union will follow the German court …
The patent dispute concerns a technology developed by EnvisionTEC – one of the market leaders in photopolymer 3D printers in the world, which belongs to Desktop Metal since the beginning of this year. EnvisionTEC is the creator of DLP technology, i.e. curing resins with light emitted by DLP projectors. In the lawsuit, Desktop Metal accuses SprintRay that two models of its devices – Pro 95 and Pro 55, infringe patents in the area of ”layer separation process”, which allow “continuous movement of the build platform to ensure exceptional speeds of building parts.” Moreover, Desktop Metal and EnvisonTEC claim that the system’s foundations go back to ten years ago and are supported by the old patent “US7892474B2” for DLP technology, which included “a continuous process of generating a three-dimensional object”.
EnvisionTEC currently has 143 patents and most of them are related to the process of layer separation in the technology of light-curing resins. It is also not the first time that EnvisionTEC has won patent litigation in Germany – in 2001 the company thus protected its technology around the formation of “separate layers between a flat base plate and cured polymer layers” under the patent number “DE10119817A1”.
Now, according to a German court ruling, until the dispute is resolved, SprintRay is not allowed to sell, import, use or store in Germany any products that allegedly infringe Desktop Metal / EnvisionTEC patents. SprintRay is an American company producing 3D printers for the prosthetic industry, belonging to the Chinese SoonSer – producer of Mars photopolymer 3D printers and ceramic CeraRay.