One of the most entangled issues surrounding the development of 3D scanning and printing is that of intellectual property. Even in its infancy, this exciting new technology “presents issues that may warrant broad changes to existing law—or require new laws entirely.” However, premature toe-stepping might stifle what promises to be one of the most versatile technologies of the century. This article highlights some of the legal snares that lie on all sides of this emerging technology concerning patent, copyright, and trademark and the different impacts on each of these (and vice versa). The article draws the comparison between the democratizing of knowledge the Gutenberg printing press ushered into Europe and the potential of 3D printing to do the same across the globe once the technology becomes ubiquitous. 3D printing combined with network technologies creates a downloadable maelstrom for IP lawmakers and lobbyists to regulate.
Interests in these issues are not only on the side of manufacturers and legislators but also consumers. Commerce will be seriously affected by the likely profusion of counterfeits being passed off as originals on the web. Consumer safety and trust stand to be compromised. Could this be the beginning of the end of private property? Is 3D printing a communist plot to completely de-stratify ownership of information and personally distribute means of production? What can the makers of things do to get credit for their labors? What should the proper credit be? This is a great article to get a feel for some of the current dialogue concerning these consequential questions.
Review submitted by Kenneth Pennington