3D that by 2018, 3D printing will result in

3D printing raises several concerns related to
intellectual property and can potentially infringe all four major types of IP.
If, for example, a person develops a blueprint for a phone case that can also
be used for storing debit and credit cards, then it is probable that it might
infringe on an existing patent protection for that particular function.
Moreover, if that case is designed to look like a Chanel wallet, it could also
infringe: a design protection, a trademark (if the logo of the brand is used)
and/or a copyright (for the artistic design).

Since 3D printing allows people to create, copy, and
modify objects, it will have a large impact on our existing IP laws.1 Further, Gartner also predicts that by
2018, 3D printing will result in the loss of at least $100 billion per year in
intellectual property globally.2 This is one of the
main reasons why many have referred to 3D printing as a “highly disruptive
technology”.

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3D printing could bring the ‘demise of intellectual property’ for companies that sell unique, manufactured
objects that can easily be reproduced in a 3D printer.3  For example,
big brands like Michael Kors and Louis
Vuitton that effectively thrive on the sale of their bags and clothes will be
at the receiving end. Merely by scanning the products of such companies, people
will be able to easily create the said bags and clothes at home. This could
potentially create a bootleg market for several physical objects, in the same
way that there is currently a bootleg market for music, movies, and software. 4

Another group that stands to face significant threats are artists.
While it was always possible to print a copy of a painting by an artist, but
with 3D printing, exact replicas could be created through digital blueprints. Additionally,
3D printing may also result in the violation of multiple patent rights.
When a user of a 3D printer renders the physical object that is the subject of
a patent, the CAD blueprint might infringe the applicable patent rights on that
article.5
Moreover, using a 3D printer to then reproduce a patented product infringes on
the patent right. 6  Hence, it is
abundantly clear that 3D printing will affect intellectual property rights in
multiples ways.

 

II. COPYRIGHT ISSUES ARISING FROM 3D PRINTING

The speed with which technology is developing is
exponentially higher than the speed with which laws are adapting to the dynamic
environment. Since there is no watershed case that can throw light on how
issues related to 3D printing and copyright can be tackled, the courts will
have to deal with the same on a case to case basis. A general framework will be
required that will be adequately equipped to handle such scenarios otherwise there will
be little to safeguard the rights and interests of right holders from
exploitation. This potential has led to 3D Printing being labelled as the
“counterfeiter’s best friend.” 7 The following issues
are likely to arise in the domain of copyright law due to the introduction of
3D printing.

A) Piracy

By merely scanning an object and printing the same at
home, an individual infringes the right of the copyright owner. Additionally,
several websites have come up that act as a catalyst to such infringement.
Platforms such as Cult3D, PinShape, Thingiverse and Sculpteo act as CAD file repositories, permitting
internet users to access, download, modify, redistribute, and ultimately print
out the physical objects digitally represented in the CAD.8

While there is no known court case related to 3D
printing that has been filed, there are several cases where corporations have
been able to enforce their IP rights over infringers through cease and desist
notices. One of the first such notice was sent by Netherlands based designer,
Ulrich Schwanitz who figured out how to print the Penrose Triangle. A 3D modeller designed a 3D shape
for the same and uploaded the CAD on Thingiverse. A notice was later sent by Schwanitz asserting that the
uploaded file infringed his copyright pursuant to which Thingiverse promptly
removed the said filed. Similarly, HBO served a notice to Fernando Sosa in 2013
for creating an iPhone dock that looked like the Iron Throne from HBO’s hit
series, Game of Thrones and ultimately succeeded. 

1 Michael Rimock,  An Introduction to the Intellectual Property
Law Implications of 3D Printing (2015) Canadian Journal of Law & Technology, 13.

2 Press Release, Gartner Says Uses of 3D Printing Will Ignite Major Debate
on Ethics and Regulation, Gartner (Jan. 29,
2014)

3 Michael Rimock,  An Introduction to the Intellectual Property
Law Implications of 3D Printing (2015) Canadian Journal of Law & Technology, 13.

4
Ibid

5 Ben Depoorter, Intellectual Property
Infringements & 3D Printing: Decentralized Piracy, 65 Hastings L.J. 1483,
1504 (2014

 

6 Ben Depoorter, Intellectual Property
Infringements & 3D Printing: Decentralized Piracy, 65 Hastings L.J. 1483,
1504 (2014)

7
Saahil Dama; Amulya
Chinmaye, Printing a Revolution: The Challenges of 3D Printing on Copyright, 84
Geo. Wash. L. Rev. Arguendo 68, 94 (2016)

8 Rosa Maria Ballardini; Juho Lindman; Iñigo Flores Ituarte,
Co-creation, commercialization and intellectual property – challenges with 3D
printing (2016) European Journal of Law and Technology, 1.