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The Electronic Frontier Foundation is planning for a future when 3D printing, thanks to “creative” patents, could no longer be free. Because the technology is so nascent, patenting parts of the process or renewing expiring patents could prevent incremental improvement of the technology out of fear or patent infringement. The EFF wants to head this off at the pass.

Their proposal is fairly simple but will take a lot of work. In short, they want people to supply prior art when it comes to 3D printing design and manufacture. They will troll the patent records for potential problems and then, once they’ve gathered things up, they’ll need your help figuring out what can’t be patented.

Once target applications are identified, we will seek out relevant prior art. We’ll be asking for your help again then, so please watch this space. Any document that was publicly available before an application was…

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