Patent Trolls and 3D Printing Software
One of the downsides of the growth of 3D printing is that it will give patent trolls something new to feast upon. If you think that one reason we get trolls is that the PTO does not understand a new technology and grants patents that should not be granted, then 3D printing is ripe for the plucking.
Let’s look at this from the perspective of software. (Hardware provides more legitimate opportunities for 3D printer patents.) At present, the 3D printing community operates on an open-source software premise. Some folks, though, will eventually go to the PTO seeking software patents. Almost all of these applications should be rejected. Very few 3D software files will be novel or nonobvious. Many of them will just be scans of actual objects. Others will be drawings that an ordinary person skilled in the art could do. Even if something is patentable, the patent should be quite narrow.
Will the patent examiners understand this? I’m kind of skeptical. And those patents are likely to cause trouble for years to come.