Design revolution or intellectual property nightmare?
For a designer or manufacturer, 3D printing is set to transform the industry, providing an on-demand manufacturing model. However this new technology also brings with it many intellectual property protection challenges, with the very reason for its appeal (the ease of production and duplication of products) also creating easy opportunity for unauthorized copying.
3D printing allows the manufacture of most objects from prototype to end product in a matter of hours, resulting in lower shipping and packaging costs. However, it could lead to a loss of sales of genuine products if widespread, unauthorised 3D printing occurs. At the moment, the price of a 3D printer is prohibitive – approximately $20,000 – but they will inevitably become cheaper and enter the mainstream.
Designers and manufacturers need to start now to find the best protection against unauthorised 3D printing by registering their designs.
There are a number of intellectual property protections that could be considered. Including: design registration, trademark registration and patent protection.
Designs can be protectable by obtaining a “design registration”. However:
- registration of designs should happen before the product is on the market or promoted anywhere in the world and is valid for 10 years, and
- the design must be novel.
The law contains robust infringement provisions against designs which are substantially similar as well as direct imitations of a registered design. So creating a 3D model from an original 3D object, attempting to match its design and form exactly, will constitute an infringement of a registered design.
However, the test is strict and would not prevent 3D copies that differ sufficiently from the registered design – including relatively slight alterations. This is particularly relevant in the consumer goods market where there are many products with small variations between them.
If you have any questions in relation to design rights, or other intellectual property rights for a product that you design, manufacture, import or sell, just pop us a note to [email protected] or call us on 02 8006 0830 for a confidential discussion. We would be happy to assist.