Drake IP 2013: Lucas Osborn, “The Third Industrial Revolution: How 3D printing will disrupt the IP regime”

Liveblogged from Drake IP Roundtable 2013.

Lucas Osborn presents his preliminary thinking about the implications of 3D printing on IP law.

Suggests major changes (utilitarian):

  • Complexity is free; enables mass customisation with little risk.
  • Prototyping is faster and cheaper.
  • Teak products in real-time (safety, reliability, etc)
  • Fabricate replacement parts
  • Vastly expanded number of makers of widgets, toys, and replacement parts etc.

Artistic changes – vastly expanded number of creators of:

  • Fashion items: clothes, accessories, shoes jewelery, etc.
  • Sculptures
  • 3D Mashups
  • 3D parody / satire

Changes (piracy):

  • Easy to copy toys, fashion items, small widgets, replacement parts, etc.
  • If you can draw it, you can print it.
  • If you can scan it, you can print it.
  • If you can’t scan or draw it, you can download a schematic and then you can print it.

This is going to cause the same problems for trademark, trade secret, patent, design as copyright has been going through.

What will IP owners do about this? Fashion industry, trade mark owners, pro-patent groups, trade secret holders will join the copyright lobbies. On the other hand, 3D printing companies might push back – as will people in the medical field, individual ‘makers’. There’s lots of open source cooperation in this space. Essentially, IP owners will sue everyone, try for technological protection measures, use DMCA-style take down notices, etc.

In the medium term, 3D printing is going to stress many IP doctrines. Attacks the heart of trademark regime, the distinction between consumer protection and incentives for producers, for example.

IP law presupposes sophisticated, careful actors. If the law moves away from this, the law may become more fair. Public norms might shift away from protection mentality.