September 01, 2003
Patent Infringement Case Protects Rights of License Holder
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by Amy Rowell - Contributing Editor
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Patent Infringement Case Protects Rights of License Holder

by Amy A. Rowell

Court rules that 3D Systems infringed EOS GmbH patent rights

Apparently, it truly pays to buy the rights.

On August 20th, 2003 the United States District Court for the Central District of California ruled in favor of rapid prototyping manufacturer, EOS GmbH, in a patent infringement case that has been on the books for nearly three years. In December 2000, EOS GmbH filed a lawsuit against DTM Corporation of Austin, TX alleging that the Sinterstation and Vanguard laser-sintering rapid prototyping systems manufactured and sold by DTM Corporation, infringed patent rights held by EOS GmbH of Munich, Germany.

And in the final hour, the court sided with EOS GmbH.

3D Systems of California licensed certain rapid prototyping technologies to EOS GmbH in August 1997. As a result of this 1997 license agreement, EOS was licensed under the 3D Systems' patents to the extent the patents pertained to the field of laser sintering.

3D Systems later acquired DTM, in August 2001. And DTM, too, took advantage of this patented laser-sintering technology in the development of its Sinterstation and Vanguard laser-sintering rapid prototyping systems. Unfortunately, it didn't have the right to do so, based on the court's recent ruling.

Specifically, the Court ruled that one claim of one of the 13 asserted 3D Systems' patents, US Patent No. 5,630,981 ('981 patent), licensed to EOS was infringed by every Sinterstation and Vanguard system sold by DTM since August 1997, when EOS acquired the exclusive rights to all 3D Systems. patented laser-sintering technology.

In a counter-claim, 3D Systems asserted that certain nylon powders, which are currently sold by EOS in the U.S., infringe DTM's US Patent No. 5,990,268 (the '268 patent). However, the Court found that this patent contains multiple conflicting definitions of a key term of its claims and cannot be construed, therefore EOS cannot infringe this patent.

Are these rulings fair?

3D Systems doesn't believe they are, and plans to appeal.

"3D Systems is disappointed with the rulings but views this as one step in a long process," said G. Walter Loewenbaum II, Chairman of the Board of Directors. "3D Systems will appeal the rulings and believes that the law and the facts favor its position and will ultimately prevail, particularly given that these issues will be reviewed anew in the appellate court."

EOS GmbH, on the other hand, is hopeful that this will mark the end of the three-year battle.

"We are very pleased with these rulings," stated Dr. Hans J. Langer, founder and Chief Executive Officer of EOS. "The infringement ruling should be no surprise to 3D Systems, as it simply confirms what they told us in writing in 1997 when we were negotiating the license agreement. We find it very regrettable that having sold their laser-sintering rights exclusively to EOS, 3D Systems then decided not only to enter the laser-sintering market in breach of their agreements, but also to pursue legal action against EOS. With these new rulings it is very clear who is infringing who's patent rights. We hope that the whole litigation can now be ended quickly, and we are confident in our position."

Amy Rowell is the managing editor of
MCADCafe, and the editor of MCAD Weekly Review.

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