Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pakistani-American Pioneered 3D Technology in Orthodontics

Zia Chishti, a Pakistani-American serial entrepreneur,  founded his first company Align Technology in 1997 in Silicon Valley on the idea of creating clear plastic braces by using advanced 3-D computer imaging. The technology now trademarked as Invisalign has helped millions of people straighten their teeth for a beautiful smile without enduring the pain and unsightly looks of the traditional steel brackets and wires used in orthodontics.

Zia Chishti and Kelsey Wirth
After graduating from Stanford Business School, Chishti wore braces when working as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley. When his braces were removed he wore a clear plastic retainer. He noticed that when he did not wear the retainer for several days his teeth would move. However, putting the retainer back on helped bring his teeth to their desired, straightened state. It was this observation that a clear plastic device was capable of moving his own teeth that led to Chishti to conceive a process that became the Invisalign System.

A background in computer science gave Chishti the insight that it was possible to design and manufacture an entire series of clear orthodontic devices similar to the retainer he wore, using 3- D computer graphics technology to straighten teeth. He and his co-founder Kelsey Wirth started Align Technology in 1997 to realize this vision. The process has now evolved to make extensive use of 3D printing for creating a series of braces to apply gentle pressure to straighten teeth over several months. In 2012 alone, the company printed 17 million transparent dental braces for patients.

Align Technology went public in 2001 raising $130 million by selling 10 million shares at $13 each. The company's 2013 revenue was $660 million and net income was $65 million.

Chishti also started The Resource Group (TRG) in Pakistan in 1999. TRG Pakistan claims to be "the country’s largest provider of BPO services with 4 locations in Karachi and Lahore – Pakistan’s largest cities and financial centers". A 2005 Washington Post story introduced what TRG does in these words: "In a chic downtown lobby across the street from the Old Executive Office Building (in Washington DC), Saadia Musa answers phones, orders sandwiches and lets in the FedEx guy....And she does it all from Karachi, Pakistan".

Chishti also founded OrthoClear in 2005 along with several other former Align employees to compete with Align. OrthoClear received $10 million in VC funding from London-based 3i Group and set up its production facilities in Lahore, Pakistan. Soon after, Align Technology slapped OrthoClear with a lawsuit for patent infringement and filed a parallel petition with the US International Trade Commission for unfair competition.

Align claimed that OrthoClear utilizes Align's trade secrets and infringes twelve Align patents, comprising more than 200 patent claims, in the production of the OrthoClear aligners at a facility in Lahore, Pakistan. The complaint requested the ITC institute an immediate investigation and ultimately issue an exclusionary order, enforced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, excluding OrthoClear aligners from importation into the United States.

OrthoClear Inc. and Align Technology Inc. settled their litigation in a Consent Decree with a promise by OrthoClear to stop accepting cases in the United States and a payment of about $20 million from Align for OrthoClear's intellectual property.

After the Align settlement, some of OrthoClear employees left OrthoClear and joined ClearCorrect in Lahore, Pakistan.  ClearCorrect argued and the International Trade Commission (ITC) agreed that ClearCorrect and its former OrthoClear employees did not violate the Consent Order when they imported digital dental data from Pakistan to make ClearCorrect aligners. However, a Federal Circuit said last week that such rulings are not reviewable by the ITC under the ITC's own rules until after the completion of the investigation, and that the ITC never waived its rule.

The Court ruled that the language used by the parties in the 2006 Consent Order was adequate to prohibit importation by electronic transmission, and remanded the case to the ITC to determine at trial whether the former OrthoClear (now ClearCorrect) employees violated the Consent Order by transmitting digital dental data to ClearCorrect.

The Court did not reach the question of whether section 337 gives the ITC jurisdiction over electronic articles (an issue Align won with both the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and the ITC and now the subject of a separate ClearCorrect appeal). The case will now be remanded back to the ITC, which will presumably assign a new ALJ to handle the case going forward. So the litigation goes on while the consumers continue to pay the high price for use of clear braces.

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Akil said...

So whats the case regarding? I didnt get it....If he started and was the pioneer then how can his previous company sue him?

So were these patents held by the company and not by him? How could he have overlooked intellectual property?

Riaz Haq said...

Akil: "So were these patents held by the company and not by him? How could he have overlooked intellectual property?"

I believe the patents for Invisalign belong to Align Technology, not to Zia Chishtie. The investors insist on transfer of patents to any company before funding it.

Anonymous said...

3D printing in Pakistan:

3D printing has been around since the last two decades but was kept under wraps through patents. The moment the patents expired 3D printing began its steady boom. It was only a matter of time before the tech found its way to Pakistan. Ali Ahsan has taken it upon himself to put 3D printing on the map in Pakistan.

For those of you who don’t know what 3D printing is all about, Ali makes it super simple: “3D Printing is a technology which enables one to design a 3 Dimensional object on a computer and get a solid tangible model of it on his/her desktop in matter of hours. No machining, no tools, no crafting skill is required. This does sound like magic this is happening right now on someone’s desktop 3D Printer right now while you read this. This is most definitely the next big revolution after the internet, with desktop printers becoming more accessible its transforming we use to think about manufacturing and fabrication. Well I succeeded in making one a year back, it was insane fun to build and have so many things with this revolutionary machine that there is no turning back,” he explained excitedly.

Ali’s journey goes much further than many others. He first became inspired to create things by his father. “My father was a ‘maker’. He always enjoyed problem solving wanted to make life easier. We never saw electricians, plumbers, carpenter coming to our house, he use to do everything by himself and fortunately as a kid I always stood beside him carrying tools and watching what he is doing. That’s what made me a mechanical engineer, a little different as I was pre-trained by a full time mentor.

“It was a favour that I wanted to return by doing something similar for my own children. With 3D printing, I can’t tell you the exact moment it all started, but my wife and I spared a room (we call it the Maker Room) with all sorts of tools electronics. And that’s sort of where it all began! The first thing we made were LEGOs for my children and we ended up at LEGO Mindstorm. With an environment of learning you actually don’t have to teach they learn by mimicking you.
It was then that Ali came across the Pakistan Innovation Foundation’s NIGC competition. This is a setup which basically helped put together a set of the brightest and most innovative Pakistanis and gave them a platform to do their bidding. Ali Ahsan used this opportunity to create a commercially viable 3D printer. His prototype is currently in testing phase with some remarkably promising results. “The PIF initiative is very unique, it’s not just a competition it’s a mentorship. What I learned from these workshops and from peers would have never happened if it would have been just a short event as a competition!” he explains....

Mayraj said...

When did he leave Align and why?

Riaz Haq said...

Mayraj: "When did he leave Align and why?"

Zia Chishti started Align in 1997. He resigned as the Chief Executive Officer of Align in March 2002 and as a director of Align in March 2003.

He is a serial entrepreneur who becomes restless when a company has gotten off the ground to look for thrills of new start-ups.

Riaz Haq said...

On Saturday July 23, 2005 Rising Leaders hosted a networking event with a presentation from Zia Chishti at the Embassy of Pakistan. The event was attended by a group of young Americans interning in DC this summer. Mr. Chishti, a successful businessman, gave a speech about his experience as a Pakistani-American in the business world; he also discussed the important tips and tricks of networking.

Rising Leaders, a group aimed at empowering young Pakistani-Americans to be active in fields that are non-traditional for the Pakistan community, hosted the event. The event was focused on bringing young interns in DC together to network. A mixer/reception gave interns the opportunity to mingle and network with each other.

The guest speaker, Zia Chishti, is an accomplished Pakistani-American businessman. Although Zia Chishti was born in Bar Harbour, Maine, he spent most of his young life in Pakistan and returned to US for University. He graduated from Columbia University in 1992 and then received his MBA from Stanford University. In 1997, he co-founded Align Technology, a company that produced clear plastic removable orthodontic “aligners.” Soon after he left Align Technology, he became the CEO and chairman of The Resource Group (TRG).

When Mr. Chishti was director of Align technologies around 700 Pakistanis were employed and stationed in Lahore, Pakistan. They were responsible for the 3D computer graphics responsible for the design of the orthodontic aligners, as well as providing valuable customer service to US clientele. Align technologies was Pakistan’s largest Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO).

After leaving Align Technologies, Mr. Chishti created The Resource Group (TRG), which is now Pakistan’s largest BPO, employing around 1700 Pakistanis. Globally TRP employs over 5000 people. Mr. Chishti believes that there are many skilled people in Pakistan, who, because of labor market abuse, have not been given the chance to work at their potential. His companies have helped to motivate many Pakistanis and increase activity in Pakistan’s labor markets.

In his speech Mr. Chishti explained the certain attitudes one should have when one wants a job. Since the majority of the attendants were Pakistani-Americans, Mr. Chishti focused on using a Pakistani background to one’s advantage. He stated that if an employer has certain misconceptions about Pakistan, one should explain to him the truth about Pakistan, and use positive points about Pakistan to change his perception. Mr. Chishti also stated that sincerity and candidness go a long way in an interview. A key point Mr. Chishti stressed is that in order for one to be successful, one must have “something to bring to the table.” Importantly, it is a give and take relationship between the prospective employee and the potential employer.

After Mr. Chishti finished his presentation he answered several questions from the audience. During the question and answer session the audience asked about Mr. Chishti’s personal experience in Pakistan and his view on work ethics in Pakistan. The event finished with a post-speech mixer.

Riaz Haq said...

When most of us think of the countries that are at the forefront on 3D printing, Pakistan most certainly would be absent from that list. It’s simply a country where very little in terms of 3D printing has really caught on.

This is changing though, thanks in a large part to a company named Xplorer 3D. Xplorer 3D’s parent company, SoftOnix launched as the country’s first ever 3D printing service provider back in 2012. Then in 2013, something began to happen. “In late 2013 we were getting a lot of demand for 3D printers,” Xplorer 3D’s CEO Tayyab Alam tells “Seven out of ten calls asked us for 3D printers instead of the 3D printing service.”

Alam realized that something needed to be done, if they wished to remain Pakistan’s 3D printing leader. The technology was beginning to become a world-wide phenomenon, thus the increase in demand could only continue to grow.

“So we started working on the plans to design and manufacture Pakistan’s very own 3D printer brand, and finally we launched [our line of] 3D Printers for consumers, back in March 2014,” said Alam. “Xplorer 3D is Pakistran’s first 3D printing brand, providing state of the art and affordable 3D Printers. Currently our printers are being manufactured in China and assembled in Pakistan, but we do have future plans to start manufacturing them right here. Currently our product range starts from DIY 3D printing kits to professional level 3D printers.”

At this time, Xplorer 3D offers three different 3D printers on their website, ranging in price from 65,000 Pakistani Rupee (approximately $650) for the Xplorer 3D Basic to 195,000 Rupee ($1950) for the Xplorer 3D Pro. All three printers appear to be quality FDM based machines, comparable to those that we see in the United States and in Europe. They all feature 100 micron layer resolutions with build volumes of 200x200x200 mm.

Alam tells us that they have an all new Xplorer 3D PRO-XL coming very soon. “Our next big surprise in the 3D printing scenario is Xplorer 3D PRO-XL, featuring a huge build volume of 3870 cubic inches for turning huge sized ideas into reality.”

A printer this size will allow designers in Pakistan to create 3-dimensional objects of very large sizes, for prototyping and in some cases final products. While 3D printing is not all that popular yet in Pakistan, Alam sees this changing.

“The 3D printing scenario in Pakistan is getting popular by the minute,” he tells us. “The most interested crowd are students with engineering and architectural backgrounds. Moreover many hobbyist, regardless of their age, are very interested in this technology.”

3D printing is beginning to find its way to countries all all around the world. With services such as 3DHubs, just about anyone, anywhere on the planet already has access to 3D printing as a service. It won’t be long though, until 3D printers themselves begin making their way into homes. Thanks to Alam and Xpolorer 3D, many of those homes may soon be in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Working replicas of expensive scientific equipment could be made for a fraction of conventional costs using cheap 3D printers, possibly saving developing world labs thousands of pounds each time, says a researcher whose has written a book on the subject.

This and similar advances mean the age of appropriate technology – affordable, sustainable solutions designed and built to meet local needs – may be here, argues Joshua Pearce, a materials science and engineering professor at Michigan Technological University in the US, in an article in last month's Physics World magazine.

"For example, my lab developed an open-source 3D printable colourimeter for water testing, which costs $50 (£30) instead of $2,000," says Pearce, whose book is called Open-Source Lab: How to Build Your Own Hardware and Reduce Research Costs. The cheaper version worked as well as the $2,000 one, he adds.

"Let us say it cost us $3,000 to develop [the instructions for a cheaper device] the first time, primarily for the labour costs, and Brazil does something similar for another water-testing tool that they currently buy 10,000 units a year from Germany," he says. "They pay $3,050 for the first one – that's an investment – but only $50 for each additional one, saving themselves over $19m in the first year."

Pearce says with the advent of 3D printers, companies relying on extracting monopoly prices on products for which there is already an equivalent open-source alternative must either reduce their margins or continue to innovate to remain economically viable.

"If you print out – instead of buying – a single magnetic tube rack and buy the magnets yourself, you can easily justify the cost of a RepRap [self-replicating] 3D printer to do it," says Pearce. RepRaps cost about $1,000 assembled, and can be put together from parts costing under $500.

The idea of appropriate technology to deal with poverty was used as early as the 1970s by the World Health Organisation (WHO), when villagers were encouraged to make water pumps and farming tools. But3D printing has given the concept a boost, Pearce says.

The WHO's efforts worked well, he says, but took in only one village at a time. "There was incredibly wasteful duplication of effort to solve nearly identical problems all throughout the world."

Now, with affordable 3D printers on sale, widespread internet access and the open-source movement gaining followers, more people can use, study, copy and change a design for free – and share the improvements online, Pearce says.

He cites a range of initiatives that are making appropriate technology a more-realistic prospect. The Wikipedia-like website Appropedia lets users develop collaborative solutions in sustainability and international development.

Majumdar said...

Prof Riaz ul Haq sb,

The Global Innovation Index 2014 has put India's rank at 76. BD at 129, Pakiland at 134 just above Nepal at 136.


Majumdar said...

Prof Riaz ul Haq sb,

In 2008, Pakistan had 52.70 mobile subscribers/100 people against India's 29.53. By 2013, India's mobile subcribers stood at 70.78 against Pak's 70.13.

In 2008, Pak had 7.0 Internet user/100 people against India's 4.38. By 2013, India with 15.10 had outstripped Pak's 10.90.


Riaz Haq said...

Majumdar: "The Global Innovation Index 2014 has put India's rank at 76. BD at 129, Pakiland at 134 just above Nepal at 136"

An index that ranks the US, the source of all major breakthroughs in recent history and the home of Silicon Valley, in sixth place below 5 European nations including UK can not be credible.

BTW, it also ranks Bahrain and Oman above India and Qatar above Russia. Does that make sense to you?

Riaz Haq said...

Majumdar: "In 2008, Pakistan had 52.70 mobile subscribers/100 people against India's 29.53. By 2013, India's mobile subcribers stood at 70.78 against Pak's 70.13"

Your data for Pakistan is inaccurate. Mobile subscribers made up 73.6% of Pakistan pop at the end of 2013. As of May the figure has increased to 76.2%, according to Pakistan Telecom Authority.

India's comparable figure as of May 2014 is 73.24% vs Pakistan's 76.2%,%2014.pdf

Majumdar said...

Prof Riaz ul Haq sb,

For comparability you have to use the same source. My source is the International Telecom Union Data page, you can check out yourself.


Riaz Haq said...

Majumdar: "For comparability you have to use the same source. My source is the International Telecom Union Data page, you can check out yourself."

And where does ITU get its data from? Does it send its staff to do the counting in each country? Or rely on the telecom regulators of each country?

Riaz Haq said...

Bad teeth and movie piracy. #InvisAlign #ClearCorrect #Pakistan #Orthodontics #USA #Trade

The lawsuit revealed that ClearCorrect was sending scans of its customers' teeth to an affiliate in Pakistan, which created digital models on computers before sending the data back to 3D printers in Texas to be transformed into molds for braces. Align then went to the ITC, which ordered ClearCorrect to stop importing the tooth-model data from Pakistan.

A fight over a patented way to straighten teeth may wind up giving Hollywood studios, book publishers, software developers and other copyright holders a new ally in their fight against piracy. At issue is whether the U.S. International Trade Commission — a federal agency that resolves complaints about imports that violate U.S. copyrights, patents and trademarks — has jurisdiction over data that comes into the country through the Internet.

The dispute pits Align Technology of San Jose, which makes Invisalign braces, against ClearCorrect of Round Rock, Texas, which makes a competing brand of transparent teeth-straighteners. Align initially sued ClearCorrect in federal court for allegedly violating its patented method, which involves creating multiple digital models of a patient's teeth to produce the succession of plastic braces. The lawsuit revealed that ClearCorrect was sending scans of its customers' teeth to an affiliate in Pakistan, which created digital models on computers before sending the data back to 3D printers in Texas to be transformed into molds for braces. Align then went to the ITC, which ordered ClearCorrect to stop importing the tooth-model data from Pakistan.

The decision, if it stands, would be a watershed — the first time the ITC stopped imports that arrived electronically. And the major studios and record labels are eager to explore how the agency might help stop foreign websites from delivering bootlegged movies and songs to U.S. Internet users. But a number of technology industry companies have joined ClearCorrect in challenging the decision, arguing that the law gives the ITC purview only over tangible goods. Besides, they say, the ITC can't exactly order U.S. customs agents to open every digital packet entering the country and inspect it for infringing items. Stopping information from flowing through the Internet isn't as simple as turning away a truckload of infringing orthodontics at the border.

Still, entire industries are replacing their physical products with digital ones. Confining the ITC to tangible goods would leave it unable to do the job Congress created it to do, which is to protect U.S. companies from unfair competition by foreign rivals.

Granting the ITC jurisdiction over data imports should not, however, lead to the agency imposing broad restraints on Internet service providers in the hope of shutting down foreign piracy hotbeds. The agency's reach shouldn't extend beyond those directly involved in or profiting from the infringements, whether it be digital or physical. And to make sure the ITC stays within that boundary, Congress should specify just how far the agency can go to remedy infringements online.

Riaz Haq said...

US Appeals Court has reversed US International Trade Commission's ban on importation of ClearCorrect digital files from Pakistan.

Electronic transmissions of digital data from foreign entities are not “articles” under Section 337 (19 U.S.C. § 1337) or subject to ITC jurisdiction, held a split panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The Federal Circuit reversed the ITC's ruling that such transmissions could be excluded under their jurisdiction. The Court’s decision was watched closely by many in the tech and media industries, which believe the ITC’s broader interpretation of Section 337 may have led to government regulation of Internet transmissions.

The case was brought by Align Technology, to stop the importation of digital files that were used to create patent-infringing versions of Invisalign clear braces. The digital files were imported or transmitted from ClearCorrect Pakistan into the United States by ClearCorrect Operating, LLC, the parent company. The “articles” in question were 3D data models of patients’ tooth positions used to fabricate orthodontic aligners in accordance with patent methods. The data models were generated in Pakistan based on digital data received from the United States, and then transmitted back to the US, where they were converted into physical aligners. The Commission concluded that ClearCorrect Pakistan and ClearCorrect US were violating Section 337 by practicing certain method claims in Pakistan and then electronically “importing” those digital models into the United States over the Internet to form the physical aligners. ClearCorrect Pakistan was also found to be indirectly infringing by contributing to ClearCorrect US’s direct infringement of certain patent claims in the United States.

The central issue on appeal was whether Section 337 gives the Commission jurisdiction over “importation” of electronic transmissions of digital data. The Federal Circuit panel held 2-1 that the Commission does not have jurisdiction because the term “articles” in Section 337 is limited to “material things” and does not include intangibles. The majority’s opinion rested primarily on the literal text and legislative history of Section 337, dictionary definitions of “articles” and other statutory uses of the same term. While “electronic transmissions have some physical properties,” the majority wrote, “common sense dictates that there is a fundamental difference between electronic transmissions and ‘material things.’” The majority also found it difficult to see how the ITC or Customs could physically “exclude” electronic transmissions from “importation,” or how digital data could be “forfeited” or “seized” pursuant to relevant provisions of Section 337. Given that electronic transmissions are not “articles,” there can be no unlawful “importation” of infringing articles, and thus no basis for the ITC to exercise jurisdiction.

In so holding, the majority found that the interpretation of “articles that infringe” in Suprema v. ITC, Appeal No. 2012-1170 (Sept. 14, 2015), was not controlling. The sole issue in Suprema was whether a respondent could violate Section 337 by inducing direct infringement of a patent in the United States, when the act of direct infringement did not occur until after the article had been imported into the United States. In ClearCorrect, however, the court was looking exclusively at the interpretation of “articles” and not infringement.