Personal 3D Printing & Intellectual Property Rights -- How 3D Printing Technology Challenges the Effectiveness of Copyright and Design Law in Relation to the Protection of Objects of Applied Art
87 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2014
Date Written: March 9, 2014
Three dimensional printing (3D printing) is arguably the next great disruptive technology with significant implications for how products are designed and produced in society. Personal 3D printing allows consumers to create and replicate physical products from the comfort of their homes. The technology essentially offers consumers the means to digitise, share and copy designs of physical products in the form of digital blueprints. Since personal 3D printers make it possible for consumers to transform digital blueprints into real, physical products; digital and internet‐mediated intellectual property infringement now has a direct impact on designers of physical products. When physical products escape to the digital world of the internet the enforcement of intellectual property protection becomes as difficult as it is for other types of digital products.
The economic consequences of unauthorized copying of products with personal 3D printers for owners of intellectual property are expected to be substantial. In this thesis, the problem of unauthorized copying of physical products will be investigated from the perspective of designers of applied art. The personal 3D printers currently available on the market have limited capabilities beyond creating simple objects such as toys or decorative models and thus these products will be the focus of the analysis. The law offers protection for the objects of applied art under both copyright and design right legislation.
However, the assumption that law is not the only factor relevant when examining unauthorized copying is central to the argument presented in the thesis. The legal analysis is thus supported by an analysis of the influence of norms, market forces and technology on consumers’ tendency to copy products without seeking the permission of the right holder. The thesis reviews the emerging conflict between consumers and right holders in relation to 3D printing, including a discussion of the first 3D printing related take‐down notices. To ensure precision and illustrate the central legal challenges posed by personal 3D printing, a case is analysed in the context of United Kingdom law. Finally, the different options available to designers of applied art for protecting their works from authorized copying by personal 3D printing is discussed.
Keywords: 3D printing, three dimensional printing, intellectual property, design rights, copyright, applied art, blueprint, digitization, United Kingdom
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