3-D printing is revolutionizing the print-on-demand world, helping usher in a new era of instant manufacturing, cutting edge product design, and allowing prototyping and R&D to advance at previously impossible speeds. 3-D printing gives anybody the ability to instantly print a physical item, a new turn in manufacturing that has had a huge impact on both the creative and industrial world.  

It has also opened the door for a tidal wave of piracy and copyright issues.

The ability for individuals to design and print products from almost anywhere has made it easier than ever before for consumers to create their own products based on trademarked content. And with the relative newness of the 3-D industry, legal professionals are suddenly grappling with cases that cover everything from copyright, trademarks, patent law, design law, and geographical indications.

So, how exactly does a company keep their IP safe from 3-D piracy? 

Rightsholders have several options available to them when it comes to defending their intellectual property, starting with ensuring all applicable registrations are current and properly filed. 

In addition, staying on top of 3-D piracy means remaining vigilant and keeping an eye on the market. There are multiple sites that allow for the free trading of digital printing files and in most cases, the hosting providers do little to police what the users upload, which means it’s up to brands to police these sites.

In the event you discover your IP is being infringed upon, the first thing you will want to do is see if the hosting site has a copyright or trademark violation reporting feature. Most sites have built-in reporting systems that allow brandholders to report infringing content.

Sending a cease-and-desist letter to the party sharing the infringing file is also a viable option and can help establish a paper trail should the matter need to be elevated further.

Should the infringing party be non-responsive or you discover they are repeat offenders, you may want to escalate your actions and file a  DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice. Under the DMCA, infringing parties can be subject to both civil and criminal penalties for violating copyrights.

While the laws surrounding 3-D printing are still catching up to this new and exciting technology, the most effective way to protect your IP is to develop a robust and comprehensive brand protection plan, including monitoring and enforcing.

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