3D Printing and the Law Interview with Rania Sedhom

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The law and 3D printing is a very exciting emerging area of interest for many. What exactly happens with to 3D printed products and liability or IP? Most people in 3D printing don’t want separate laws for 3D printing or 3D printed goods. But, in 3D printed guns we’ve seen lawmakers jump into the crazy clown car of legislating by press release and make separate laws for 3D printing. What will the future hold? Rania Sedhom of Sedhom Law Group reached out to us to share her insights.

Lawmakers seem intent on creating new legislation specifically for 3D printing. Do you agree with that?

Yes, I do. While the technology is a mesh (pun intended) of software and textile, it is unique and needs its own legislation.

Does IP really need to change due to 3D?

Yes, IP law allows individuals to change a currently protected item or idea and then protect it as its own. Many individuals understand what changes and/or improvements are required for ideas and thought product utilized without 3D technology. However, guidance is needed for how much change is needed using 3D technology in order to brand it as “new” or “adequately changed.”

What issues do you see arising due to 3D printing?

3D printing will eventually help counterfeiters produce products that are more difficult to spot as fake. When utilization of 3D technology is replication. Most of us will likely use that technology to reproduce a missing button for our shirt or beading for our sweater. However, counterfeiters will be able to reproduce the entire item. As with all technology and advancement, it can be improperly cannibalized by criminals.

Why are you interested in the space?

It is going to expand the fashion world and the entire definition of fashion! Now, fashion companies and designers are working with chemists and architects in order to, for example, create new textiles and shapes. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

If I’m a small independent designer and I want to share a 3D printed design but still profit from selling physical copies what can I do?

It is difficult to respond to this question fully without writing several pages. However, the long and the short of it revolves around agreements. An agreement delineating the owners of the 3D software and which rights they are selling to the designers, an agreement specifying the owners of the resultant design and an agreement related to sales. If the designers are selling online, they should ensure that their Terms and Conditions are clear, particularly related to what consumers may or may not do with the product. For example, can they make derivative products and, if they do, who owns that derivative work. Currently, not many households have their own 3D printers, but this will change over time. I think that 3D printers will be more popular than regular printers and that nearly every household will ultimately have one of varying size.

How can I as a cash strapped inventor best protect my idea from getting stolen?

Seek legal advice. Several attorneys offer complimentary consultations in order to help newly minted inventors understand their rights and responsibilities. An attorney who is interested in working with startups usually has alternative pricing models so that the inventor can benefit from legal representation with appropriate fees and costs.

In fashion, there is no copyright but the fashion industry works?

There are several protections for the fashion industry. If a product is made utilizing a specific process, or technology, a patent is possible. The designer’s logo can be trademarked, pictures are protected, and certain blog posts and other writings can be copyrighted.

Should 3D printing work the same way?

3D printing is a technology. And, as such, it may be treated differently. The process utilized in printing the item will be the main source of ownership and the new textile created will be the main source of ownership for the brand and/or designer.

Is the file or the print the actual design?

I think this is where we need guidance from the regulators. The answer is complex. Did I, a designer, requisition the file that allows me to print the product? If yes, then the file is what needs to be protected? Did I, the designer, utilize a file that is available to all to produce my product? Then the way that I produced the product may be protected.

How can we make sure that the right people get attribution?

This likely won’t change – through contracts and trust.

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