The jury is in on the Desktop Metal infringement case against 3D printer manufacturer Markforged Inc. Reuters reported that a federal jury found that Markforged did not infringe on two of Desktop Metal’s patents for its own metal 3D printing technology. The decision was made on Friday, July 27.
Most people in the 3D printing industry will be aware of the lawsuit filed by Desktop Metal against Markforged, a specialist in carbon fiber 3D printing. The suit, which was first made public in March 2018, accused Markforged of integrating technologies patented by Desktop Metal into its Metal X 3D printer. Introduced in early 2017, the Metal X machine could be seen as a direct competitor with Desktop Metal’s own metal 3D printers in terms of affordability.
With the jury ruling that Markforged did not, in fact, infringe on any of Desktop Metal’s intellectual property, the competition for affordable metal 3D printing systems has been stepped up.
The lawsuit that rocked AM
On March 20th, 2018, Desktop Metal announced it was suing Markforged for patent infringement through a lawsuit filed with the Massachusetts U.S. District Court. Specifically, the metal AM company claimed that Markforged had utilized two of its patented technologies—relating to its seminal separable supports and interface layer technique.
At the time, Desktop Metal also alleged that Matiu Parangi, who worked for the company as a print operator during the prototype stages for its own metal 3D printing technology, had unlawfully shared information about the technology to his brother, the Director of Technology & Creative at Markforged.
Things did not look very promising for Markforged, as Desktop Metal showed that Parangi had downloaded documents from Desktop Metal’s files which were unrelated to his own job there.
Notably, the two companies have ties beyond the Parangi brothers, as Desktop Metal founder and CEO Ric Fulop acted as board member to Markforged as well as an early investor in the Massachusetts-based company.
“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,” said Fulop at the time of the lawsuit. “When that competition infringes on our technology, however, we have a duty to respond. We believe Markforged products clearly utilise technology patented by Desktop Metal and we will do what is necessary to protect our IP and our company.”
Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for Markforged to address the infringement lawsuit. Within a week, Markforged founder and CEO Greg Mark offered the following statement:
“I founded Markforged in my kitchen six years ago. I dreamt of giving every engineer the ability to 3D print real, functional, mechanical parts. We invented something that had never existed before—a continuous carbon fiber 3D printer. Our Metal X product is an extension of that platform.
“We’ve come a long way. We now have the most advanced technology platform in 3D printing, and I’m incredibly proud of what our team of engineers have accomplished.
“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.”
Court reaches a decision
As of writing, neither company has commented on the jury’s recent decision to rule in favour of Markforged, though we will be keeping a close eye on the situation. Presumably, Markforged will be able to continue to market and sell its own Metal X 3D printing system without any punitive charges.