22/11/2012 05:47 GMT | Updated 22/01/2013 05:12 GMT

Kickstarter Sued: Formlabs 3D Printer Accused Of Patent Breach

Kickstarter has reportedly been sued for promoting a 3D printer which it is argued may violate another company's patent.

The crowdsource funding website enables businesses and individuals to gather funding in small increments for businesses, artistic projects and other endeavours.

But MIT-backed Formlabs' successful campaign to find $100,000 to build and sell a new 3D Printer is now the subject of a complicated legal battle.

Above: The Form 1 3D Printer

More than 2,000 people eventually contributed to the campaign for the Form 1 3D Printer - raising more than $2.9m.

It promises high quality, cheap 3D printing for about $2,299 per device.

But 3D Systems says that elements of the technique used by the printer, known as stereolithography, are covered by one of its own patents granted in 1997.

Stereolithography refers to the layering of thin layers of resin to gradually build up a solid 3D object. 3D systems claims that it solved a key problem with the process which allowed it to add new layers before the previous one was complete. The result was higher-quality, more accurate prints.

3D Systems gained a patent covering "simultaneous multiple layer curing in stereolithography" in 1997, and claims Formlabs either ignored or failed to check whether its product infringed that patent.

The company said that Kickstarter caused "irreparable injury and damage" to its business by promoting the Form 1 printer, and taking a 5% cut of donations.

The lawsuit could prove an interesting test of whether Kickstarter is responsible for the copyright and patent issues involved in products which find funding on its site.

Kickstarter launched in 2009, but only recently made the jump to the UK where it now runs a local version of the service.