If consumers have 3D printers in their homes, what will stop them from violating copyright?
If 3D printing fulfills the potential that some have predicted for it, the technology could plague some businesses with the same intellectual property nightmares that struck the music and film industries after the introduction of Napster, according to one legal expert.
John Hornick, a partner at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner law firm in Washington, DC, said at the recent Inside 3D Printing conference that 3D printing could bring the “demise of intellectual property” for companies that sell unique, manufactured objects that can be easily reproduced in a 3D printer.
Take, for example, a toy manufacturer. One consumer can buy one toy, bring it home, use a Microsoft Kinect’s 3D-scanning capabilities to obtain a design, enter that design into a desktop 3D printer and create multiple, identical copies. This means that one person with a 3D printer could control sales for an entire city block after making just one purchase, selling knock-off Tonka Trucks on street corners the same way people sell bootleg DVDs today.
“If you can print the dump truck at home, it doesn’t have to be a Tonka [brand] dump truck, so that disrupts the market for the trademark issue as well,” Hornick said at the event.