Protecting the Rights of Designers; Michael Sandys, Head of Commercial at Jackson Canter Solicitors, Discusses Intellectual Property Protection for 3D Printing
MANUFACTURING and creative and digital knowledge are two of the key themes at this year's International Festival for Business 2014 (IFB). A topic high on the agenda in these areas is also causing a stir in the legal world.
'Additive layer manufacturing,' more commonly known as 3D printing, is providing a challenge for legal systems worldwide, as product designers seek increasing protection of their intellectual property (IP) rights.
The technology itself has been around since the 1970s. Companies such as Jaguar Land Rover have been using the process since 2008 to manufacturer parts for their vehicles. But with falling costs (a basic 3D home-printer can be purchased for around PS500), concern rises.
A number of infamous file-sharing websites already have thousands of design blueprints available for download, meaning any IT- competent person can access and 'print' the 3D object in minutes.
The question is, how do rights-holders protect their designs against illegal download from such sites? Patent applications relating to 3D printed products have more than doubled globally since 2004, but it is far from certain that patents will safeguard a designer's intellectual property.
In the EU, USA, China, Japan and Australia, a physical object will only be protected by a patent if the object itself is 'new and non-obvious.' So while a percentage of designs will be protected, many products that are expected to be manufactured or reproduced in the home will not be deemed innovative enough to be afforded patent protection. …