An IP owner’s guide to 3D printing


Matt Hervey

An IP owner’s guide to 3D printing

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If 3D printing begins to make real inroads into traditional product markets, then IP owners and law makers will need to work out how to address the potential pitfalls, says Matt Hervey of Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co.

3D printers are becoming increasingly popular. Once affordable only to large manufacturers (BMW was an early adopter) or to specialist prototyping bureaus, 3D printers are now commonly owned by product designers, architects and schools. A new generation of (relatively) reliable and slickly designed printers is targeting the home enthusiast.

This popularity has fuelled intellectual property concerns. The nightmare scenario for IP owners is that their products go the way of music and video: rampant online sharing of files for the creation of copies of their products that are printed at home. As if to confirm this, The Pirate Bay, the notorious online collection of pirated music and videos, introduced a ‘physibles’ category for 3D printing files. Gartner, the information technology research and advisory firm, has predicted “intellectual property theft worth at least $16 billion in 2016 due to 3D printing”. As explored below, such concerns may, for now, be overstated.

Finding infringements

Matt Hervey, Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co, 3D printing, IP, counterfeits, technology, 3D printing,