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How to fight infringement in a 3D world

01-10-2015

Vann Pearce and Chris Higgins

How to fight infringement in a 3D world

Pablo Scapinachis / Shutterstock.com

How can IP owners monitor and prevent the unauthorised copying of patented, copyrighted, and trademarked goods via 3D printing? Vann Pearce and Chris Higgins of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe investigate.

3D printing has burst into the public consciousness in recent years with what seems like a Faustian bargain for designers, inventors, and manufacturers: the promise of a new ‘industrial revolution’ but at the cost of widespread theft, perhaps leading to complete devaluation, of intellectual property.

3D printers are devices that take a digital design file and build, layer by layer, a corresponding three-dimensional solid object. Beginning with a February 2011 cover story in The Economist, scores of articles have warned that 3D printing will facilitate widespread unauthorised copying of patented, copyrighted, and trademarked goods. So what is the solution—how can IP owners monitor and prevent infringement via 3D printing? That question has been much discussed but answers have proved elusive.

We think there is a very good reason why no-one seems to have a foolproof strategy for preventing 3D printing IP theft: it does not exist. But do not despair. Forward-thinking companies have a tremendous opportunity now to create a 3D printing brand strategy based on mutually beneficial relationships with consumers, designers, and the 3D printing community, and some are doing so already. This will be the best way for IP owners to establish a precedent for customers to pay for authorised 3D printing designs and products, before customers become accustomed to free unauthorised copying. 


3D printing, Chris Higgins, Vann Pearce, Gartner Inc, music, copyright, Orrick, IP infringement

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