3D printing is revolutionizing the print-on-demand world, ushering in a new era of instant manufacturing, cutting edge product design, and in some cases, helping medical innovation leapfrog ahead at light year speed. This ability to instantly create an item is having a huge impact on the creative industry.
It’s also opened the door for a tidal wave of piracy and copyright issues. The ease of designing and printing your own products at home means it is even easier for consumers to create their own designs based on trademarked content. And with the relative newness of the 3D industry, legal professionals are grappling with the intellectual property (IP) issues involved, including copyrights, patents and trademarks. How exactly does a company protect their IP from 3D piracy?
U.S. copyright law offers protection for “original works of authorship fixed on any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” With traditional manufacturing, this makes application of the law relatively straightforward and simple, but when it comes to 3D printing, the analysis gets a little murkier.
With 3D printing, there may be potentially numerous individuals involved in the process; from the designer who creates the original digital model, to the individual who translates it into a CAD program and prepares the file for printing, to the person who operates the 3D printer. So who owns the copyrightable work or, conversely, causes the infringement? In cases where all members of the group share a part in creating the IP, the answer may lie in granting the copyright to multiple individuals, meaning each holds an equal stake in the ownership of the final design. For groups and teams working together, this makes sense. When it comes to a product being created without a license or authorization from the IP owner, how do you proceed?
If you’re a trademark or copyright holder and discover your IP is being illegally produced or distributed, consult with your legal professionals to decide if you want to pursue legal action or issue a DMCA takedown notice. Of course, the best offense is a good defense. Start with ensuring your IP is properly protected with up to date and comprehensive trademarks and copyrights.
See exactly how and where your IP is being used in online marketplaces by requesting a free brand audit. Our team of experts will work with you to custom craft a comprehensive overview of where your brand is being used on the internet and by whom.
 This blog post provides generalized information and does not constitute legal advice or an attorney-client communication. Each situation is unique and requires consultation with suitable professionals.