Three-dimensional printers can do a lot of amazing things, but they can’t yet print up protection for your intellectual property. Joren De Wachter explains some of the challenges posed by 3-D technology in a recent blog post:
Trolls: Never ones to miss an opportunity, patent trolls are all over the software behind 3-D printing. De Wachter explains that Intellectual Ventures, owned by former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold, filed a patent on a system of digital rights management control of 3-D printing, meaning that anyone who prints certain files would have to pay a license fee. “It looks like Intellectual Ventures wants to be able to collect lots of money on the back of the innovation and creativity of others,” he says.
Copyright: As is typical for new technology, the law is still moving to catch up, and De Wachter explains it’s not clear who would own the copyright to a digital file that resembles or fits another’s design. “Right now, the copyright only applies to the code, not what the code does.”
Design Rights: These rights also are problematic, as even patents may not be useful in blocking access of competitive designs or products. “The issue of cost-effectiveness of litigating someone to keep products that can be manufactured at a much lower price off the market will meet with both practical and political problems,” De Wachter says.