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3D Printing: Expect Numerous Legal, IP and Piracy Issues

By Dick Weisinger

Rapid evolution of technology is putting a strain on legal issues like privacy and ownership of ideas.  3D printing is one area that is increasingly being identified as a technology that can easily  infringe on IP rights.

Many of the IP infringement claims to date related to 3D printing have focused on infringement related to the design and construction of the printers themselves.  But as 3D printers become more commonplace, expect a wider range of issues to surface, including piracy, trademark and copyright issues of the items being printed.  Many are pointing out similarities between issues faced by companies like Napster in the records industry when downloads of MP3 files first became popular.

Deven R. Desai and Gerard N. Magliocca, wrote that “to date, companies relying on patent to protect nonrivalrous goods have not had to face potential broad-based copying. 3D printing will challenge those companies. Lower costs, the ability to make specialized and just-in-time parts, and a return to local manufacturing are all positive developments that should be embraced. Yet these advances will threaten, if not destroy, many firms and jobs that live off rents from intellectual property.”

Matthew Rimmer, an intellectual property academic and associate professor at the Australian National University College of Law, said that “companies should always be worried about new innovation.  3D printing has opportunities for IP owners, and it also presents challenges and threats.  There are some huge opportunities in terms of reducing some of the logistics costs and things like that. If you use 3D printing to make things, there could be huge efficiencies and economic benefits that you could derive…  You have the full gamut of IP issues. It’s copyright, it’s patents, it’s trademarks, it’s designs – perhaps it’s even things like trade secrets as well. 3D printing cuts across all the various domains of intellectual property.”




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