3D Printing – A New Dimension of Possible Copyright and Trademark Infringement (Scan or Design and Print 3D Objects) Reply


3D Printer

It’s possible to print in 3D by scanning an object to create a 3D model file… and then printing it with a 3D printer (be careful not to infringe a copyright, trademark or patent in the process).  The ability to scan an object with a laser to create a 3D model file is particularly interesting to me, because, it opens up a new dimension of (potential) intellectual property infringement.  For example, scanning and printing someone else’s original jewelry design could be copyright infringement.

3D printing is an additive process by which incredibly thin layers of material are ‘printed out’ and built up to create a three-dimensional object.  This is accomplished by using 3D model files to provide 3D printing instructions to 3D printers.  As you might guess, 3D model files can be generated in several ways including: 1) scanning an object, 2) using design software to create a design from scratch and 3) re-designing a scanned image by using design software.  For example, it would be possible to scan an engagement ring and scan a family pet and combine the two scans to replace the ring’s center stone with a miniature image the beloved pet.  (Perhaps not an example of something folks are rushing to do… but you get the idea.  The possible infringement comes into play if scanning and reproducing an object infringes a copyright, trademark or patent, like a copyrighted jewelry design).  The 3D scanner that I saw in action involved a slowly rotating pedestal and a laser scanner that was being used to scan a person and print out a miniature, plastic, 3D-action-figure portrait of the scanned person.

Interestingly, 3D printers can print in a wide range of materials including plastic, some medals, ceramic type materials that can be fired and even edible substances.  (The article I read about printed food didn’t sound too appetizing).

While this blog post is focused on mentioning the new dimension of intellectual property infringement  (including copyright, trademark and patent) that is possible with 3D printing, there are countless other possibilities available with 3D printing.  In fact, you may have read that Philadelphia has just become the first city in the US to ban the use of 3D printers to manufacture firearms.  On a more positive note, artists and engineers are designing and printing fascinating new works.  The Out of Hand exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design features some of these creative new works.

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.


For more information, see also, Makerbot printers at www.makerbot.com; Shapeways 3D printing marketplace and community at www.shapeways.com; the Out of Hand exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design featuring artistic uses of 3D printing at http://madmuseum.org/exhibition/out-hand; news about Philadelphia’s ban at  www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2013/11/25/how-cute-philadelphia-passes-law-banning-3d-gun-printing; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

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