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3D Printing – an IP Infringement?

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I was catching up on my TV shows – it’s been far and few between; and had an interesting episode where the criminal used a gun made out of 3D printer in CSI.

While traditional printing only allows for 2D, 3D printers allows for output objects with width, height and depth. How it does it is it lays down layer after layer of material.

The multiple layers are printed on top of the other with the end product pretty much looking like the real McCoy. There are technicalities involved, but for the purpose of this newsletter, we will ignore the boring stuff, mmmkay?

So this interesting technology development could very much provide impetus of IP law breaches – copyright, for example. 3D copying is clearly a breach of copyright, patent or design rights. 3D scanning (and printing) allows for the replication of branded and designer items to be made available for cheap.

3D printers are already available commercially – seen on retail at £699.00 (equivalent to RM3,631.58).

Sites like Safeway are already providing marketplace for products from 3D printers. I spied Harry Potter pendants, rings, logo and dolls – clearly an infringement of the Harry Potter franchise, currently managed by Warner Bros.

So do they curb this? Well, there’s always the option to sue for either direct or indirect infringement. Therefore, it is always a good idea to procure IP rights for your designs and actively enforce – send nasty lawyerly letters. This is costly, but almost always works.

Other ideas include innovate – a product is less tempting to counterfeiting when the production cycle is the fastest to showcase the latest and greatest. Also, quality products are usually not easy to duplicate – and there are people who are willing to part with their hard earned money for quality products.

Other innovative ideas include tagging products to help counterfeiting. Lastly, one article suggested for a win-win arrangement via licensing opportunities to the infringer (for example, the Harry Potter pendants from Safeways).

Just don’t go buy the 3D printer to print a gun like that episode in CSI!

Sources:

1. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-15/3-d-printing-the-ultimate-intellectual-property-threat-.html

2. http://www.dlapiper.com/files/Publication/3c1790c0-6550-4ed7-9c8c-66ea2582dcba/Presentation/PublicationAttachment/19e5ad61-3395-4475-b1ab-691788ccd2d5/Clone_Wars_3D_Printing.pdf

3. http://www.wired.com/insights/2013/09/ip-law-and-3d-printing-designers-can-work-around-lack-of-cover/

4. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/uks-first-commercial-3d-printer-on-sale-in-maplin-for-69999-8697332.html

5. http://www.shapeways.com/search?q=harry+potter

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World First 3D gun fired. Cody Wilson, a law student from Uni. Of Texas successfully test-fired a gun “printed” from an $8,000 3-D printer (Source: The Hindu)

1382892_10153416181800445_104563610_nFab@Home is the first multi-material 3D printer made available to public. This is their first model (Source: Wikipedia)

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