28 February 2018Copyright

INTA Design Conference 2018: The beast of 3D printing

“We need to take action now to counter the new beast” that is 3D printing, according to  Nick Kounoupias, founder of Kounoupias IP, a UK based consultancy provider.

Kounoupias spoke on the topic alongside Shapeways’ counsel Michael Weinberg, Studio Legale SIB partner Giacomo Moleri, and Jones Day partner John Froemming at INTA’s Power of Design conference yesterday, February 27, in London.

Referring to design rights as “the poor cousin in the IP family”, Kounoupias said design has also been called the “unloved child” and the “Cinderella right” in IP circles.

He compared design rights to George Orwell’s famous “Animal Farm” book, which describes how all animals are created equal but some are more equal than others. “Design has always been slightly lower in the food chain than other IP rights”.

He added that “I love 3D printing, it’s a fantastic innovation—comparable to the growth of the internet”, before explaining that the internet has given rise to “fundamental assaults on IP” across the world and has “opened the door to organised criminals”.

The links between terrorism and IP infringement are “huge”, according to Kounoupias. He claimed the 1993 World Trade Center terrorist attack was funded by the sale of counterfeit clothing, and during the 1990s the mafia in Milan used a CD pirating distribution plant to fund their activities.

“I don’t want us to see the same mistakes being made” in relation to 3D printing, said Kounoupias, referencing the potential links between IP infringement and terrorism.

“We need to take action now to counter the new beast,” Kounoupias continued. “In my view it would be at best foolish, and at worst criminally negligent, for us to wait and see and do nothing.”

He favours legislative action and said criminalising unregistered design infringement in the UK would be a step in the right direction, particularly as these are the rights are most likely to be infringed through 3D printing.

Weinberg differs in his view of 3D printing. He said there are many situations where an existing policy challenge is simply “brought to life”, because of 3D printing and we must put aside the 3D printing element to first understand the underlying challenge.

For example, in the context of gun control and 3D printing, Weinberg said policymakers must understand the existing gun control regime before examining the role of 3D printing in it. Whether or not it fundamentally changes the analysis cannot be determined if this step is missed.

“It makes it much easier to address the problems that remain in an effective way,” Weinberg explained. “It allows you to focus on the parts you know and care about.”

In addition, he said policymakers must ensure they understand what the situation is today and in the foreseeable future, rather than “legislating for a magic box that could do a bunch of amazing things” in the distant future.

In contrast to Kounoupias, Moleri said his answer to the question “If I can, should I?” in relation to use of 3D printing is “yes”. He added that, by 2025, 3D printing will be a very lucrative industry.

Moleri highlighted the uses 3D printing already has in the medical industry, for electric cars, and in the restoration of cultural heritage. He said 3D printers are more economical than many other manufacturing systems.

Froemming added that, at least in the US, there are “so many non-infringing uses” of 3D printers and many potential solutions to possible infringement. For example, watermarking technology could print a ‘do not copy’ mark on products and design owners could be given the tools to electronically search the internet for copies.

INTA’s Power of Design conference finished yesterday, February 27.

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