A report on the future of 3D Printing and Intellectual Property

4 December, 2018
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

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The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has released a report setting out the socio-legal research that it has conducted on the relationship between intellectual property (IP) and 3D printing. The report is a continuation of a previous IPO report from 2015.

Some believe that 3D printing is a threat to a number of established IP rights, such as patents. Whereas others seem to be more relaxed and might welcome a new threat to the monopoly that some patent owners exert over a given market.

The report touches on a range of factors that apply to 3D printing across a number of countries including the UK, China, Singapore, France, India and Russia.

The report’s conclusions

The IPO concluded that there are similarities across the countries that were studied. Policies are being introduced in the majority of them to stimulate the creation and take-up of new technologies including 3D printing. However, as a technology, the conclusion was that 3D printing is not yet a significant threat to IP.

The image of everyone having a 3D printer in their household is not one that is shared by many ‘in the know’. Using a 3D printer is not as simple as loading a data file, putting some of the building material (plastic, metal etc.) into the printer and pressing ‘go’. Although, this is the same reaction Bill Gates received when he made a similar statement about computers.

Instead, the report concluded that rather than IP, other legal issues would be of more pressing concern for legislators in respect of 3D printing, such as health and safety, product liability and the regulation of medical devices.

The report’s recommendations

It is clear that 3D printing is still in it’s infancy in terms of accessibility and application in the market and the practicalities of using a 3D printer does not allow the market to be flooded with DIY products.

Monitoring was an overarching recommendation in terms of future developments across the world – particularly in China and India where the growing middle classes show a particular interest in innovation.

In terms of IP – there has been limited litigation on infringement resulting from 3D printing but next steps should be the monitoring of decisions in the EU resulting from the European Parliament’s Resolution on 3D printing.

The full report can be found here

For more information on intellectual property, please contact Harry Partridge at harry.partridge@cripps.co.uk or on +44 (0)1732 224 092.

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