3D printing and IP law

Good insight from Elsa Malaty, Associate in the law firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, and Guilda Rostama, Doctor in Private Law, on the legal aspects of 3D printing and IP.  This is a potential minefield and as many found out in the music and movie industry in the 1990s with the advent of Napster, it needs to be managed proactively.


3D printing technology emerged in the 1980s largely for industrial application. However, the expiry of patent rights over many of these early technologies has prompted renewed interest in its potential to transform manufacturing supply chains. The availability of low-cost, high-performance 3D printers has put the technology within reach of consumers, fueling huge expectations about what it can achieve. But what are the implications of the expanding use of this rapidly evolving and potentially transformative technology for intellectual property (IP)?

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3D Printing — The risks for manufacturers

Mike Thoma, VP Chief Underwriting Officer – Global Technology at Travelers, talks with Manufacturing Business Technology about the cyber and intellectual property risks of 3D printing technologies that manufacturers should consider for smooth operations and the production of reliable goods.

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Research looks at 3D printing within the law

Do you know your rights when it comes to 3D printing and design?

In Legal Aspects of Protecting Intellectual Property in Additive Manufacturing, authors Brown, Yampolskiy, Gatlin and Andel, from the School of Computing at the University of South Alabama, examine this topic at from four different stages of the design process: the blueprint; the print process; a finished object; and the embellishments to the object’s design.

Fig 2. From Legal Aspects of Protecting Intellectual Property in Additive Manufacturing Via: Brown, Yampolskiy, Gatlin & AndelFig 2. From Legal Aspects of Protecting Intellectual Property in Additive Manufacturing Via: Brown, Yampolskiy, Gatlin & Andel

The authors reach the conclusion that ‘Until sufficient deterrents are in place to render Internet piracy manageable, federal protections will be insufficient to deter many forms infringement’. This issue is by no means unique to the digital design files in the 3D printing industry with online theft, from music to movies an issue already faced by these industries. The question is whether the 3D printing industry will learn from the lessons in the music and movie business.

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The dark side of 3D Printing

3D printing has the potential to transform the world in many positive ways, by simplifying manufacturing, shortening supply chains, democratizing production, creating jobs, reducing waste, customizing products to our needs, and producing radically different products. Most uses of 3D printers will be legal.
The Dark Side of 3D Printing
But 3D printing can also be the devil’s playground.  Like anything else, 3D printing has a dark side, and some people will be drawn to it.

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3D Printing and its uncertain products liability landscape

There is general consensus that 3D printing has potentially revolutionary implications for industry and, along with it, for the law. In terms of products liability law, its consequences for industry and consumers injured by 3D-printed products are potentially just as far-reaching.

Consider a fact pattern under which an auto parts manufacturer makes CAD files available to auto parts stores so that they may 3D print replacement auto parts on demand and on-site in response to customer needs. An auto parts store sells the 3D-printed part to a customer, who later is involved in an accident and blames the 3D-printed part for causing the accident.

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Intellectual Property is a hot topic at the Second Annual Benesch 3D Printing Conference

A report from Clare Scott at 3DPrint.com on the events in Cleveland, Ohio.

I spent my day yesterday sitting in the main ballroom at Cleveland’s Ritz Carlton hotel with a few hundred attorneys, business leaders, and academics from across Northeast Ohio to discuss how 3D printing is changing how we do business. It was the second annual 3D Printing Conference hosted by Benesch Attorneys at Law, a prominent law firm whose focus areas include intellectual property law – a hot-button topic in the 3D printing industry right now. Unsurprisingly, intellectual property issues were a primary focus of the conference, formally entitled “What Every Business Must Know Today About 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing.”

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So what does every business need to know about 3D printing? In short – everything. The speakers and panelists, who ranged from manufacturing leaders to college professors, all emphasized, repeatedly, that every business, no matter what the sector or client base, needs to get familiar with 3D printing – and fast. Dave Pierson, Senior Design Engineer for the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET), opened his presentation with a quote he attributed to 3D printing industry expert Terry Wohlers: “If you are not running in this space, you are already falling behind.” That was the consensus shared by everyone who presented yesterday: businesses, if you don’t leverage 3D printing, your competitors will, so start implementing it now.

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The questions executives should ask about 3D Printing

Most hearing aids in the U.S. are now custom-made on 3D printers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the first 3D-printed pills. Carmakers have started using 3D technology to produce parts. And last year saw the first demonstration of a digital printer producing multilayer, standards-based circuit boards. Imagine the changes afoot in the pharmaceutical, medical device, automotive, and consumer electronics industries.

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3D printing is poised to redefine global manufacturing and distribution. It could upend supply chains, business models, customer relationships, and even entrepreneurship itself. It may do to physical goods what cloud computing is now doing to digital services; what the PC, internet, and smart mobility have done to personal computing; and what outsourcing did to software development and business processing — take mass distribution and innovation to the next level while realigning the very geography of work and trade.

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The reason 3D Printing could be huge – huge! – by 2025 has to do with privacy

The first time intellectual property attorney John Hornick saw a 3D printer at work, he thought it was a joke. It wasn’t until a friend at Johns Hopkins University convinced him that the tech was the real deal that Hornick took a deep dive into how 3D printing machines could change the world.

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Hornick’s findings are collected in the new book, 3D Printing Will Rock the World, and below he tells Inverse exactly how most people may own a 3D printer by 2025, no matter how implausible that seems now.

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When eBay sellers try to defend their illegal sale of 3D models from Thingiverse, comedy ensues

It was bound to happen of course. When 3D printables files are available online for free and easily shared there was always going to be someone who would be willing to take advantage of that freedom. 3D printing technology is going to completely alter copyrights, trademarks and IP law dramatically over the next few years simply because there really are not a lot of ways to stop people from duplicating, and in some cases stealing and taking credit for, 3D content. Currently there are only two real defenses that 3D model designers have to prevent their work from being stolen; respect for the Creative Common licenses attached to 3D models and the ethical fortitude to not violate those licenses.

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What are the legal aspects of 3D printing? A European law firm weighs in

3D printed guns and firearms have once again become a hot-button issue within the 3D printing industry, as the world’s first 3D printed revolver has just come to light while the New South Wales government has implemented a law that specifically makes owning a 3D printed gun illegal. Yet even if firearms aren’t your cup of tea, if you either design or create 3D printed products, you could be infringing on IP law, copyrights, or a host of other legal issues without even knowing it.

As a topic that easily generates a lot more questions than answers, we could probably all use a little brushing up on the legal aspects surrounding 3D printing. Luckily, Dutch law firm De Clercq Advocaten Notarissen has just issued a brief yet educational white paper that covers everything from intellectual property law (IP) to copyright law, to the especially murky waters of product liability, all within the new reality of the 3D printing industrial revolution. Though written based on Dutch law and regulations, these are generally implemented based on the European Directives, and thus will be consistent with many other European countries, and in some cases perhaps not so far off from US or other nations’ policies.

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