We thank all of you that have been checking in with our team lately to explore ideas and designs.  We are amazed at your continued efforts in the 3DP arena.  Please keep it up and please continue to share your ideas with the world.

Since approximately, October 17, 2011, we’ve been a little bit more guarded about what is going on in our lab and perhaps a little less helpful or open to some of you.   We’re sorry.   Our University has decided, with no faculty involvement to change our consulting/engagement forms.

If interested, please see:


A PDF of this document: approval_compensation

Along with this form, an email stating:

“The modifications reflect two areas of improvement.  First, it has become
increasingly apparent academic staff are not aware that engaging in outside
work with any potential economic benefit triggers the requirement for
approval through submission of this form. This includes situations where the
economic benefit could arise due to an equity interest in the company for which
the work is being performed, or due to potential benefit through intellectual
property interests.  It also includes any work where there is an entitlement to
compensation, even if that compensation is waived or donated. The form has
been reworded to clarify the policy requirement and provide guidance.  Please
note that it is of benefit to the staff member to complete the outside work review
process, as it  provides University approval for the activities, including de minimus
use  of state facilities for outside work that might otherwise trigger a violation of
the Washington State Ethics in Public Service Act. “


This “minor” change in our consulting form has produced a claim of total University ownership of any and all intellectual property (IP) associated activity paid or unpaid (in which one should or might have gotten paid).   Thus, if we help you, or offer advice (free consulting), we put you at risk of losing any and all of your IP in the transaction.

We have been sending the following form email to requests that require more than a casual response from us.

“Dear #, Thank you for your interest in ###.  At this point, we are
very sorry to say
that due to recent changes in University IP status,
we can’t be of much help.   Our
current situation on IP would likely
give the Univ. any and all IP as a result of
such efforts or
interactions.   We are currently in a very strange situation as we

can’t even consult without those same IP issues (or even volunteer).
We have several faculty groups attempting to resolve the situation
in a positive manner but it will
take some time.
Currently, the only way to do ### with us at the Univ. is to engage in a
research contract with the University.  The costs would run between
and $110K minimum (which would provide support for one
graduate student, some of our time and lab/machine time).
Perhaps, you might try ### at ### or ### at ###. “


Several faculty groups on our campus our attempting to work towards a positive out coming  of this situation.


Please be patient of these issues and continue to support us in our quest of Open3DP.

25 Comments on Sorry we’re not so Open lately

  1. Bryan Willman says:

    So much for “community service”.

    And we might ask why such a rule should be allowed at an institution funded by my tax dollars?

    Good luck.

  2. Dave Feathers says:

    For the record… you may have my semi flaskless matchplate sandcasting mold concept (I can email a diagram of the how-to). Take the part design as well. …. Sorry you are forced to deal with the politics of academia. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

  3. Jeff says:

    I have directly benefitted from your clondel design and free in-person advice.

    This change seems to have serious implications for anyone contributing to an open project.

    The UW is my Alma mater and I disagree with their posturing on this. To which authority should we our our comments?

  4. Rand Launer says:

    Wow. Ridiculous. I’ll spare you a decent critique of this. This is too mundane and insulting.

  5. Brad Brown says:

    Uhg! I can feel the drama all the way from Chicago.

  6. Kevin says:

    I have watched over the last decade or more as the universities everywhere have become more and more tied to businesses. It is unfortunate that institutions whose very existence is predicated on the free exchange of ideas are being limited by capitalism instead. I am a normally great fan of capitalism, but I don’t think that universities are a proper place for it’s practice. I hope that you are able to resolve this since it sounds like the wording of your consulting/engagement forms will prevent you from taking part in any aspect of open source work. Any work that you take part in would automatically become the property of the institution.

    Thank you for the explanation. I have been wondering what caused the sudden drop in postings from one of my favorite blogs. I hope you will be able to resolve this with the bureaucrats.

  7. […] how this new policy at Washington is affecting a lab, take a look at this post from the now not-so-Open 3d Printing site.  The problem is, if you the outsider teach UW folks how to do something, and if the UW folks […]

  8. Lysne Torgerson says:

    Dr. Ganter, I’m sorry to hear about this! Can you direct us to where we should send letters of complaint about this policy and its effects on the open source community?

  9. ganter says:

    Dear Lysne, the most appropriate person would be our Provost Ana Mari Cauce at provost@uw.edu Dr. Cauce is our chief academic officer.

  10. ganter says:

    Dear Jeff, the most appropriate person would be our Provost Ana Mari Cauce at provost@uw.edu Dr. Cauce is our chief academic officer.

  11. Mark G. says:

    See my comment on Boing Boing about this issue: http://boingboing.net/2012/02/.....g+Boing%29

  12. Nick Mailer says:

    This is no less than the total corruption of Academe. It is beyond a disgrace: it is a tragedy. And it is beyond a local tragedy, but is a global abomination: an assault on that which is wondrous about our species – the agglutination of shared knowledge.

    When a friend’s academic institution tried to exert this sort of evil upon him, he stood up to that evil (a word I do not use lightly), threatening to resign. I hope your team shows similar courage and does not cower like quislings at this affront.

  13. reno says:

    The University policy goes against the spirit of what a University should be and strive for: discover important truths and share them for the common good of humanity.

  14. ganter says:

    Mark, thanks for your support.

  15. Mark G. says:

    I understand that there is a tendency to think this is “wrong” or “evil”, but that’s a very one-sided view. Universities and learning institutions are conflicted these days and rightly so. They develop a lot of IP that either never sees the light of day because it’s fairly obscure, or it turned into products that they may never see a benefit from. Now I’m not one to say that is should be about business only, but saying its all about altruism is not the answer either. There has to be a balance and one that makes a win-win for everyone.

    The best way to make a change here is find a happy middle ground and give the university an incentive, monetarily or through recognition, in the sharing of that information. Heck, wouldn’t it be cool if UW worked with Makerbot to develop a faster/better/cheaper 3D printer and the university got something for it? Even if that is recognition. Both parties win.

    Not sure how this would work, but that’s the rub. As a community, we need to help them find the answers. As I mentioned in my Boing Boing post, the 3D printing companies need to help out here also. Things get greyer if I use a technique in a model to be printed. Do I give the university attribution for the technique? Do I sign an agreement that allows them to be party to any royalties gained by using my technique? How do they or should they police this? Again, no answers here just suggestions.

  16. Nate says:

    I would imagine that this policy could also effect any DNA or Protein Synthesis and Sequencing services for outside customers. No one with a need for that service would touch UW with a ten foot pole now.

  17. Nick Mailer says:

    Mark G: the fact that you beg the question with that horrible propagandist term “intellectual property” shows just how deeply the corruption has seeped. A university should have nothing to do with intellectual “property”.

    Read my paper if you want to see a discussion of this dangerous property metaphor:

  18. Mark G. says:

    Nick: Not trying to start a flame war here and ideally I agree with you (BTW, great paper!). The reality is the university IS looking to establish IP for the work it does. Right or wrong, it’s not going to change by damning the people in charge or coming at them hard. They probably don’t know there is an alternative. It’s important for our community to help them see these alternatives.

    What are some of your suggestions? Would you be willing to lead the maker/3D printing community in getting this policy modified? Your paper is a great intro into how they might change their stance.

  19. Rob Knop says:

    I’m guessing that there is somebody somewhere in the University who holds the philosophy that “a University needs to be run more like a business”.

    I HATE it when I hear that, because the mission of a University is very different from the mission of something that exists only to profit.

    I do understand the problem with researchers using university resources to do research and development that they then take private themselves to patent exclusively. Universities have a reasonable interest (and, indeed, a duty) to stop that. But claiming exclusive rights and forbidding researchers from working in the public good is a cure at least as bad as the problem.

  20. Anonymous says:

    A similar thing happened to me at the University of Pittsburgh.

    We had a flourishing technological project to help the elderly, the infirmed, and the handicapped. However, it could and would probably be deployed by facilities that take care of these people.

    The ensuing intellectual property grab completely shut down the project.

    Good luck to you all. Don’t roll over :'(

  21. The remarks in this page are nonsensical because they talk about a
    mysterious substance denominated “IP”. No such thing exists.

    Some people generalize about copyright law, trade secret law, patent
    law, trademark law, plant variety monopolies, IC mask monopolies,
    publicity rights, and other laws I don’t remember, calling them
    “intellectual property rights”. This is a misleading practice because
    those laws are not similar. It always spreads confusion, but it
    doesn’t get the chance to spread very much of it in the text quoted
    here from the university policy, since that uses the term only in
    passing as an example. If the policy (which I won’t look at since
    it’s in a Microsoft Word format; see
    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/.....ments.html) uses it more,
    it may do further harm there.

    However, this page’s text takes the confusion a ways further, reifying
    that overgeneralization to posit a something-or-other called “IP”, and
    assuming this something can be transmitted in a message, then somehow
    pulled back. That doesn’t fit legal reality — most of those laws
    don’t work like that.

    I think that they are thinking of copyright. Text employees write
    might be copyrightable, and the university might claim copyright on
    it, and stop them from contributing that text to other projects.

    This issue only sometimes arises, though. It does not arise for
    general advice. What is really happening is that they may not
    be allowed to help people at all, regardless of copyright.

    The bogus concept of “IP” can only get in the way of understanding

  22. ganter says:

    Richard, thanks for your informed comments. I put up a PDF of the form (sorry).

    I know these concepts are near and dear to your heart.

    As I understand this, YES, in fact our University means IP (or perhaps closer to “know-how”) as in any and all. Notice even questions about spouse and children — Wow!

    The hardest part of all, it seems no one on campus will acknowledge the origin of this policy and/or form.

  23. Mark G. says:

    [quote]”The hardest part of all, it seems no one on campus will acknowledge the origin of this policy and/or form.”[/quote]

    That’s good news then. It should make it easier for those in charge to talk about and support a reversal if they did not participate in the authorship.

  24. Arbejdsglaede says:

    Could not thank you more than enough for the discussions on your website. I know you place a lot of time and energy into them and hope you know how considerably I appreciate it. I hope I’ll do the identical thing for someone else at some time.

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