Back in college I had a business teacher use a truism that has always seemed to prove itself to be pretty accurate. He said that you know a new industry has been born when the bankers and the lawyers start showing up en masse. The money men have been here for quite a while now, but it looks like the lawyers are finally turning up to the party. Now that 3D printing has moved beyond the novelty stage and is developing into a powerhouse industrial manufacturing technology, the days of ignoring the inevitable legal issues involved with technology that can easily duplicate intellectual property are going to start falling behind us.
It isn’t that the 3D printing industry has been free of legal battles or lawsuits, any tech industry, even an emergent one, is going to be ripe with legal issues both related to lawsuits and out-dated laws and regulations. But until the last few years, 3D printing was largely seen by many as a small, novelty industry that was either a fad or would remain a niche technology. But that is looking less and less likely, as more industries are turning to high-tech industrial 3D printing technologies in rapidly increasing numbers. And as even the lower-cost desktop 3D printers increase in quality and access to affordable industrial quality 3D printing services expands, there is going to be a much greater need for legal counsel to navigate these uncharted waters.
Just this week, global legal firm Hunton & Williams announced that they are launching a cross-practice 3D printing team that was formed to advise their clients on a wide rage of legal topics related to the industry and technology. With 3D printing technology being utilized by some of the largest companies throughout the full spectrum of industries, many of their clients are already preparing for any potential legal roadblocks ahead. Hunton & Williams will be working with clients in industries as diverse as consumer product development, aerospace, automotive, energy production, medical and prosthetics, transportation, and real estate.
“We are very excited about this new team. We are formalizing work we have been doing since the emergence of this transformative manufacturing process, and we are poised to advise on the new legal issues arising in 3D printing in intellectual property, product liability, compliance, regulatory, insurance, tax and other areas,” explained Maya M. Eckstein, the new 3D Printing Team leader and the head of Hunton & Williams intellectual property practice group.
To form the 3D Printing Team, the firm drew from its existing staff of more than 800 lawyers from among their 19 offices throughout the world. The multi-practice group of lawyers has already been assisting clients with 3D printing related matters, and Hunton & Williams’ new 3D printing team will allow them to easily direct their clients’ questions and legal concerns to experts who can easily clarify and explain the related issues.
In addition to team leader Eckstein, the 3D printing group will include firm partners A. Todd Brown for issues related to litigation and products liability, Eric J. Hanson for intellectual property issues, Brian L. Hager to address any business or corporate concerns, Rita Davis to deal with any tax-related litigation issues, and Walter J. Andrews and Michael S. Levine who will handle insurance and client reinsurance advice. The team is expected to deal with any transactional, litigation and regulatory matters issues related to additive manufacturing for clients from their nineteen offices throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. You can find out more information about the Hunton & Williams 3D printing team here. Thoughts on this new development in the legal world? Discuss in the 3D Printing Practice forum over at 3DPB.com.