This week in Milan everything is about design. Recently, 3D printing generated a lot of interest in the design industry, allowing any user to manufacture small batches of identical copies of an object at a low cost.

We discussed this matter at a recent event which took place here in Milan.

To copy an object you just need two things: an electronic schematic of the product and a 3D printer. This means that everyone can reproduce a lot of different designs, putting at risk the same notion of intellectual property.

3D printing might infringe intellectual property rights at different stages of the process. Focusing on designs, it is possible to differentiate between 3D Computer-aided design (CAD) files and 3D replicas:

  • the creation of the 3D CAD file replicating the design might be considered infringing design rights. Also, the dissemination of the file might be considered a contributory infringement of the IP rights involved;
  • according to Section 41 of the Italian Industrial Property Code, the creation, dissemination and offering to the public of the 3D replica would likely be considered an infringement of the design right, except for a private and non-commercial use, for an experimental use and for citations or education uses;

The end users would be liable as direct infringers, while the repos or other intermediaries would be potentially liable as contributory infringers.

The existing IP regime is not completely up to the tasks; it will need some adjustments to be able to face the fast improvement of this new technology and way of conceiving design, not to mention the other IP rights. In fact, 3D printing is considered  a potentially fast and convenient way to copy patented or copyrighted designs, that appeal to a great number of users, all around the world. The answer to the machine is in the machine?