3D Printing is a revolutionary alternative for product prototyping, allowing individuals and companies to turn 3D modelled designs in to practical 3D objects. With a small entry-level printer starting at just a few hundred dollars, anyone with the right know how can start creating and replicating almost any object they like. However, the simplicity of 3D Printing provides some complicated challenges around intellectual property rights.
In 2017, IP Australia released a report stating that the industry of 3D printing will generate intellectual property challenges in the future. Now, in 2018, the use of 3D printing has increased due to increasing accessibility and decreasing costs. This increase has raised several concerns about the impact this will have on infringing intellectual property design rights. As a result, regulations and laws have been proposed and some have been implemented.
Not familiar with 3D printing? Here are some examples:
The Importance of Protecting your 3D Design
Consequently, infringement under the Designs Act occurs when a person, without licence or authority from the designer, does one of these activities in relation to an identical or substantially similar registered design.
However, many designers wait, or are unaware of the need, to register designs and it is too late to do so after the designs are publicly released.
In the course of the IP Australia report, it was found that:
- 3D printing and scanning technologies enable online circulation of designs but such activities are not captured by design law and, in at least some cases, copyright may be of no assistance.
The Laws of Reproduction of Existing Product Designs
Using a 3D printer to make a product that is identical or substantially similar in overall impression to a registered design in Australia is an infringing activity. Registered design rights protect the visual appearance of a product in accordance with the Designs Act 2003.
An owner or designer then has the exclusive right to make, offer to make, import for sale, use in business, or authorise any of those acts in relation to the product, which embodies the design.
Although 3D printing has the potential to reduce the “time to market” of new products and simplify the manufacturing of existing products for low cost, rights holders risk a loss of sales on genuine products, and potential brand dilution through such infringement.
Being a small or medium size business (SME) does not mean you need to be left behind. SMEs often believe they don’t need or can not afford to protect their most important business asset – their Intellectual Property (IP). This couldn't be further from the truth.
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