While 3D printing has been around for quite a while, the emergence of cheaper more accessible 3D printers has brought a significant amount of attention to the process. Many people are excited about the future possibilities for the health and science fields as they relate to 3D printing, and there has been speculation that as the process progresses it may replace traditional mass manufacturing.
However, a serious issue that has yet to be accounted for is the difficulty with respect to intellectual property law. According to legal magazine InsideCounsel, while most manufacturers copyright their goods with a range of trademarks, patents, and other protections, 3D printing strips away many of these protections. As long as an individual has a blueprint for a product, they can use these devices to recreate items repeatedly at very little cost.
3D printers range in size and sophistication, but even the low end printers can be operated as simply as a home printer, allowing individuals to replicate anything from medical devices to artwork. The printers use a variety of materials ranging from plastics to metal to create 3D replicas of blueprints by layering the material from bottom to top.
InsideCounsel speculates that as 3D printing becomes increasingly popular, it will be treated like VCRs. Companies will not be able to sue the manufacturers of the printers because of what individuals do with them.
While 3D printing seems to be a looming threat towards intellectual property, the article suggests that there are measures that can limit the abuses. Manufacturers should make clear that they plan to be aggressive in their enforcement of intellectual property law, and to notify 3D printer purchasers of this. While the option of litigation exists, in many cases it may be a waste of resources for manufacturers, however, particularly if individuals are replicating items on a one-off basis.
The Patterson Law Firm has dealt with a plethora of intellectual property cases. We stay abreast of the trends in technology in order to ensure the highest quality of service for our clients. To learn more about our services visit pattersonlawfirm.com or contact us.