Outfits of the future are always portrayed to be quite Trekky. But when Dita Von Teese stepped out in this 3D printed gown, she looked anything but a space cadet.

Following computer generated blueprints, a designer can now literally print a garment into a wearable fashion piece (whether Star Trek inspired or not).

For us lay people, this process involves a printer injecting one layer of chosen material at a time (including nylon powder, liquid or metal), building up to create a 3D object. In this brave new world, the sewing machine is made redundant by a printer, and detailed hand-stitching is outsmarted by exact codes.

The benefits of 3D printing are tempting for all manufacturers alike: precision, speed, ease of use, ability to mass produce and major cost efficiencies. But the downside is there is a greater chance of turning up to an event in the same rubber-mesh-sequin-studded-gown as someone else. As 3D technology becomes more accessible, intellectual property owners may find prolific copying of their designs. Unless your design is registered under the Designs Act or protected by copyright, your rights against someone copying and selling your designs are nil.

This caution is not just relevant to the designers of Dita’s dress. In a very short time, 3D printing may affect every industry and it is important to understand your rights and how to protect your intellectual property. Already, 3D products are being produced in the engineering, motor, aviation, aeronautical and the medical industries. So get onto it.