Trying to prove who designed and built what in 3D printing was envisaged as costly to major manufacturers, until now.
The amazing aspect of 3D printing is that anyone, anywhere, with the right equipment, can print and build an object almost identical to an already existing one.
While this sounds great in theory, for major manufacturers it creates one major headache: how do you prove a design is yours?
Not only that, but what liability does a company have if someone steals its design, creates a poorly made copy and it leads to a major accident?
With the rapid rise of the additive manufacturing sector, it has become increasingly possible for industry players to make spare and replacement parts in a cost-effective manner. What’s more, the sector lends itself especially well to the fabrication of parts for the customisation of existing products and equipment. As such, all parties in the supply chain need to be acutely aware of the very real risks of IP infringement in this evolving space, says Jason Teng, partner and patent attorney at leading full service IP law firm, Potter Clarkson.
As things stand, different considerations apply depending on the type of IP rights covering a particular part or a complex product that includes the part. For instance, the manufacture of a whole patented product would normally constitute patent infringement, unless certain exceptions apply such as private non-commercial use. On the other hand, the manufacture of a spare/replacement part for incorporation into a patented product could either constitute an infringing “making” of the patented product or a non-infringing “repair”, which would vary on a case-by-case basis. On this note, some guidance can be found in a 2011 Supreme Court decision in the Schütz v Werit case.
CECIMO believes the current 3D printing intellectual property rights framework is fit for purpose.
CECIMO, the European Association of the Machine Tool Industries, has said the European Parliament risks stifling 3D printing innovation by introducing premature regulatory measures to protect Intellectual Property.
The European Parliament recently released a non-binding resolution entitled ‘Three-dimensional printing: intellectual property rights and civil liability’, with 631 votes in favour, 27 against, and 19 abstentions. It called for sterner parameters surrounding IP infringements and has suggested a potential revision of the Liability and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) regulatory framework for 3D printing within the European Union, and has also raised the feasibility of national copyright levy systems.
After multiple proofs of concept, pilots and early rollouts, supply chain management is emerging as the killer app for enterprise blockchain technology, the very first to be “going live” – to cite the theme of this year’s Consensus conference.
But while multiple blockchain projects worldwide are demonstrating how smart contracts, data sharing protocols and cryptographic traceability can unlock trade finance, improve risk management, streamline customs processing and boost transparency, the biggest change for global trade is yet to come.
That will be when the Internet of Things, 3D printing and other automating technologies finally free manufacturing from the constraints of geography. At that moment, blockchain technology could come into its own, enabling an entirely new paradigm of decentralized, on-demand production and forcing a realignment of global economic power.
Reaching this new paradigm requires advances in all these technologies. But just as importantly, it will require manufacturers to adopt a more open-minded approach toward optimizing the balance between competition and collaboration and toward the role that blockchains can play in finding that.
As 3D printing has not had the negative impact that was expected, brands should be harnessing the benefits of the technology, according to Justin Pierce, chair of Venable’s IP division.
Pierce says that “savvy brand owners and manufacturers can harness the benefits of 3D printing technology and offer a wide variety of product accessories, and efficiently offer replacement parts”.
“By proactively using 3D printing to both produce high-quality goods and enable greater consumer access to one’s brand, businesses have much to gain from an early investment in this market,” Pierce adds.
The recent inaugural Additive Manufacturing Strategies summit, hosted with SmarTech Markets Publishing, brought together experts in medical and dental 3D printing alongside legal and business leaders to share thoughts on the future of additive manufacturing in human healthcare. The event, rich in expertise, filled two days with insightful presentations and conversations in Washington, D.C., allowing for a unique opportunity to network and learn from leading minds in technology and regulation. When we initially announced the summit back in September, one of the first names added to the agenda was one familiar throughout the legal and 3D printing fields: Finnegan Partner John Hornick.
Hornick, who has been generous with his expertise in sharing his thoughts with us through previous interviews as well as thoughtful articles, has built up a strong background in intellectual property (IP) as it impacts the business of 3D printing. As an IP lawyer and highly regarded authorand speaker, Hornick has a well-established reputation as a thought leader; it was a pleasure to finally meet him face-to-face during the AMS summit last week. At the summit, Hornick spoke on a panel entitled “The Future of 3D Printing in Medical Markets” and moderated one called “Additive Medicine and Dentistry: Investment Industry and VC Perspective.” During these presenstations and in subsequent conversation, Hornick brought to the table a wealth of ideas regarding the future of 3D printing, as well as the customization and democratization of design and manufacturing allowed for through this advanced technology.
Dr. Andreas Leupold has been advising and representing clients from Germany, England, USA and many other countries mainly in IT Law, Technology, 3D Printing, Media and Trademark Law, Copyright and Unfair Competition Law.
Dr. Leupold is the editor and co-author of the handbook “3D Printing” which he wrote with a team of over 30 contributors that features industry leaders such as Terry Wohlers of Wohlers Associates and Peter Sander of Airbus Industries. He is a founding member of the supervisory council of the network “Mobility goes additive” initiated by the German Railway Deutsche Bahn. Here, he discusses the importance of protecting intellectual property and data in additive manufacturing.
2018 will be an exciting year for 3D printing. Additive manufacturing (AM) has, for a long time, been mainly used in tool and prototype construction, and it is now moving into series production. Adidas recently announced that in the coming year it will be producing 100,000 Futurecraft sneakers using Carbon’s digital light synthesis technology and Airbus is cooperating with Daimler and the systems producer EOS in the additive mass production of aluminium parts.
These and other developments in AM have not escaped the eyes of lawyers for emerging technologies following market changes and their effects on the legal prerequisites for reducing business risks. With the rapidly advancing industrialisation of 3D printing, the legal questions that these pose are gaining importance, in particular, intellectual ownership of construction data and 3D printable designs and 3D models.
The relationship between 3D printing, copyright, and the protection of intellectual property has experienced some strain due to its necessarily digital nature. Readers may remember a debacle surrounding the unauthorized sale of 3D printed designs by Louise Driggers (aka Loubie) – an issue that was quickly cleared up thanks to the online community.
In a landmark case running parallel to the industry, some of the grey areas surrounding design ownership were also resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, today in Brussels members of JURI, the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs, met to discuss intellectual property (IP) rights and civil liability of 3D printing.
In session with Conservative, Liberal and Green Party members Joëlle Bergeron, a member of the Eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group and former member of France’s National Front, presented an own-initiative report proposing legislative action to control and monitor additive manufacturing activity.
From creation to manufacturing, protecting the IP of a 3D design is challenging, especially when an STL file can be so easily shared from peer to peer. Watermark, a security application from 3D design library Treatstock aims to address this.
Speaking to 3D Printing Industry, Treatstock head of marketing Rufat Bayramov said that the company was inspired by the “prevalent issue of copyright violation” to develop the free online software.
Treatstock Watermark allows a designer to upload an STL file and integrate it with hidden “watermark” information before being put in the public domain. An STL file can also be uploaded to the platform and checked for security information.
For the last 20 years, manufacturers have used 3D printing to build prototypes, but it was only recently that this industrial technology entered the mainstream. The 3D printing of products can enable faster time-to-market, save money, mitigate risk and allow manufacturers to customize a component to suit customer needs. 3D printing can produce individual, specifically tailored parts on demand. Boeing printed an entire plane cabin in 2013 and Ford can manufacture vehicle parts in four days that would have taken four months using traditional methods.
After realizing the boost 3D printing could deliver to manufacturing, the U.S. government increased funding for institutions researching AM technologies. In 2012 the federally funded National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) was launched — a $30 million pilot institute aimed at boosting 3D printing’s use in manufacturing. Also referred to as America Makes, the institute works with brilliant minds from industry, academia, and government. It is expected that these collaborations will help reduce the period of development between a lab’s proof-of-concept and commercial product. With the U.S. government investing more in AM and 3D printing techniques, governmental organizations are now starting to integrate the technology into their own processes.