3D Printing, the Internet and Patent Law – A History Repeating?
La Rivista di Diritto Industriale (2013) Vol. 62 Iss. 6, 352-370
15 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2014
Date Written: February 28, 2013
3-D printers are used to print three dimensional objects. Depending on the method applied the created object is constructed of a sort of plastic that the printer produces and shapes in the requested shape. 3-D printers have become more and more affordable in recent times and have therefore reached a wider distribution among the general public. Users can therefore nowadays print 3-D objects from the comfort of their home. Additionally, there are websites available that can be accessed to download files that contain templates which can be read into a computer and used for printing objects. This development may have important, if not dangerous ramifications. There have been reports that 3-D printing has been used to produce parts of handguns which otherwise needed to be registered.
But the development may also have an enormous impact on Intellectual Property (IP) Rights holders. 3-D printing could be used to produce objects that are covered by an IP right. One could for instance print an object which is covered by a design right. But there could also be the possibility to produce an object covered by a patent, trade mark or copyright.
This paper wishes to analyse this issue in relation to the law of patents and will discuss the pertinent laws of the United Kingdom and Germany. Its focus will be on assessing whether the making available of files that contain templates for objects used for printing may constitute an indirect infringement of the patented object. Ultimately, the paper wants to analyse whether the law of patents is adequately equipped to deal with these new developments.
Keywords: 3D Printing, Patent Law, Indirect patent infringement, United Kingdom, Germany, Internet
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