Five Stages of Patent Grief to Achieve 3D Printing Acceptance

26 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2014 Last revised: 28 Jul 2015

See all articles by Nicole Syzdek

Nicole Syzdek

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Date Written: April 10, 2014


3D printing presents unique implications for intellectual property holders. Patent law grants an exclusive right to inventors for a limited time in exchange for a detailed public disclosure of an invention. The underlying goal behind this statutory deal “is to bring new designs and technologies into the public domain through disclosure.” The paradox of the patent system is that the disclosure requirement arguably enables infringement, yet infringement is not common. Until now the patent system’s stability was able to rely on physical limitations that made wide-scale infringement of physical goods infeasible. 3D printing challenges companies depending on patents to protect their non-rivalrous goods as the overhead required to reproduce such goods is minimized. Intellectual property holders will inevitably be intimidated by the development of 3D printing and will want to protect themselves by slowing its expansion or limiting their own exposure. Since intellectual property holders were the same major stakeholders during the Napster disaster that befell the copyright industry, strong parallels exist between the likely future battles in 3D printing and the previous copyright battles against duplication technologies. Using the reaction of the copyright stakeholders for guidance, this Comment speculates as to patent holders’ reactions to the impact of 3D printing on the patent industry, categorizing them into the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief, working through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. To stifle the economic shake-up brought by 3D printing it is necessary for intellectual property holders to begin strategizing on how to approach foreseen business and legal issues.

One solution is for patent holders to adopt a system that makes it easy and affordable for users of 3D printers to access legally licensed CAD design files. A licensing model for CAD files similar to that of iTunes or the Amazon MP3 Store for copyrighted music, would give patent holders an alternative path for generating profit. Creating quality CAD files from scratch is not a piece of cake. Instead of sifting through a CAD file-sharing platform hoping to find a decent upload, it is likely that many users would not object to purchasing an authorized design file that guarantees a quality printed product. New technology always raises questions about current law’s effectiveness in promoting its intended goals. Creation in 3D printing does not simply refer to replication. Rather, creation encompasses taking ideas and altering them to make something better. As 3D printing technology accelerates it is critical for innovation that those who fear change do not stop those who are inspired.

Keywords: 3D Printing, Copyright, Patent, Technology, Intellectual Property, Napster, Peer-to-Peer, Infringement, 3D

Suggested Citation

Syzdek, Nicole, Five Stages of Patent Grief to Achieve 3D Printing Acceptance (April 10, 2014). 49 U.S.F. L. Rev. 335 (2015), Available at SSRN: or

Nicole Syzdek (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

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