3D Printing the Road Ahead: The Digitization of Products when Public Safety Meets Intellectual Property Rights—A New Model
38 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2017 Last revised: 14 Mar 2017
Date Written: March 3, 2016
This Article addresses the threats of 3D printing to both the physical and legal world. Not only does 3D printing impact products protected by intellectual property rights, it also poses risk, threats, and challenges to many other regimes, including products governed by product liability and criminal laws, which consequently threatens public safety. 3D printing virtually possesses threats to medical devices and products, threats to legal and illegal drugs, threats to human organs, threats to the food industry, and to the transportation industry, including cars, trains, and aircrafts. Ultimately, 3D printing also threatens environmental protection, workplace protections, households, and even the government, via 3D printing’s potential impact on tax revenue and regulations.
We argue that the legal realm has been caught totally unprepared to address these hazards that 3D printing presents. Long-standing traditional legislation is in many cases irrelevant and inefficient to deal with the 3D printing revolution that sanctions mass production of any product by any person. It is essential that policymakers address this new technology by developing solutions that prioritize intellectual property protection while also being cognizant of the additional threats it poses to society. We propose a new solution. Not only does it help handle the threat to the existing intellectual property regime, but also the threats to public safety in a variety of fields. The new model operates via a framework requiring registration, imprinting (stamping), and activity tracking in such a way that government authorities, intellectual property owners, and other stakeholders can protect their rights without severely limiting the general public’s freedom to use 3D printers. The model can be adopted as a whole or only partially (i.e., imprinting and stamping). By adopting our solution, we argue that traditional legal norms can cope with the growing tug-of-war between individual users of 3D printers and intellectual property rights holders. The proposed model requires, on the one hand, amendments to intellectual property laws to accommodate the need for registration and stamping processes, but, on the other hand, once the model is implemented it allows existing laws and other safeguards regarding public safety and product control to continuously govern their regime without becoming irrelevant in the 3D printer era.
Keywords: 3D Printing, 3D Printer, Patents, IP
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