How will 3D printing change intellectual property rights? (part 1 & 2)

Legislation is entering a grey area when it comes to how 3D printing will change the way businesses use and exploit copyrights, trademarks, patents and intellectual property (IP)*.

But businesses are not entering this new world without any sort of roadmap. Many of the issues that could crop up in the future of 3D printing have their parallels in previous industrial disputes.

As the world moved from paper and ink to digital, and as manufacturing moved from proprietary manufacturing to third-party outsourced, the law and the way it is interpreted has had to adapt and change.

Similar disputes arising from the growth of 3D printing technology seems inevitable. But businesses can use previous experiences to form a decent picture of what might happen.

The iPhone shoe was created partially as a test of IP and design - Alan Nguyen and Freedom of Creation Part 1

Current US patent law is still largely anchored to a time when Company A sued Company B for making a product that A owned the patent to, says Peter Yim, head of the electronics & software patent group at Morrison & Foerster, a US law-firm based in San Francisco, California.

But under 3D printing, it will be the consumer making the device, which adds complexity. For example how will a firm protect its intellectual property rights if it ceases to manufacture products and instead sells the design files straight to the consumer? “Nobody wants to sue customers,” he adds. “Look at the hits Monsanto – the American agricultural bio-tech company – takes for attempting to enforce patents against farmers.”

The solution could be similar to what was seen with semi-conductors, says Yim. Manufacturers went from producing their own to outsourcing to a third-party firm. In many cases, multiple producers were sending their designs to a single third-party manufacturer such as Samsung. Patent protections and contracts had to adapt to accommodate this added complexity.

Read More


Open-source design files extend to weaponry - Dr John Bullas and DEFCAD

Part 2

Currently the elephant in the room with 3D printing and IP rights is that printing at home for non-commercial use is not an IP infringement, says David Knight, partner at law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse. This is true in the UK and, broadly speaking, the rest of Europe where IP laws are similar, although open to different interpretations in different jurisdictions, he adds.

“Suppose you’ve got a patented product and the design file was distributed widely leading to 100 or 200,000 people making it at home for themselves, you can see how a coach and horses can be driven through the law,” he says.

This means that it is further up the chain – determining where the 3D file came from – that will be the most interesting source of new disputes and laws in the future, he adds.

Although the copying of the file is clear copyright infringement, further posting and distribution is a more grey area. It is similar to the arguments seen around music 15 years ago. Record labels attempted to fight all downloading of music off the internet, found they couldn’t win and adapted, says Knight.

Read More



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.