Biswajit Sarkar Blog Patent 3D Printing Technology: Protection Concern for Patent Attorney

3D Printing Technology: Protection Concern for Patent Attorney

biswajit sarkar

The 3D printing technology in the recent time has been one of the fasted growing disruptive technologies. This led to introduction of websites like Shapeways and Thingiverse, which provides a creative solution to home based designers. At the same time the technology of the printer itself also needs its own protection.

Innovations like 3D printers are protected under the Patent law. For the proper protection of inventions against infringement obtaining a patent is advisable A Patent Attorney must be consulted for the said purpose. The patent attorney must therefore very carefully assess the invention for patentability.  The patent attorney is required to advice the inventor, as according to the criteria of patentability under the Patent Laws. The patent attorney must make sure that the patent application covers every aspect of the patent holder’s rights. In 3D printer infringement majorly occurs by selling of the printer itself or if the CAD files of patented device or if the CAD files are available on certain websites. CAD files are Computer Aided Device file, which basically instruct the printer to print three dimensional objects. Having said so, maintenance of patent and fighting an infringement suit is a costly affair. Thus, infringement battles are limited to big companies like Formlabs and Stratsys.

As for the end products of 3D printing are concerned, the protection depends on the type of end product. Here also a patent attorney shall advice such designers depending upon the patentability of the product, like prosthesis and other medical aids, like hearing aid etc. However patent attorneys are required to make sure that these products are for commercial use and not private use. If the products are artistic work like jewellery or sculpture, the protection of such end products could be found under the copyright law. Here the patent attorney must tread carefully.

3D printing technology has patent, trade mark, copyright and design laws interconnected intrinsically. Though majorly the protection is under patent laws, but the boundaries are blurred. The claims drafted by the patent attorney must be clear and precise. Especially with 3D printing the patent attorney must be careful to avoid the claims being defeated by criteria of patentability itself

With lack of precedents, 3D printing technology protection is a growing concern for patent attorneys. To overcome this lack ability of the patent system to protect this technology in a full-fledged manner it requires more understanding of the technology itself and of digital patent infringement.

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