Recently, I was at a technology fair with my young son and there were multiple desktop 3D printers that were on display and for sale. One display that caught my eye showed 16 printers stacked together with each one in a different stage of printing. Several of the printers were printing figures of dragons and dinosaurs. My son thought they looked like fun and asked for one for his birthday. I asked him what he would use it for and he said that he would want to print out dinosaur figures, action figures, ships from Star Wars® or missing Lego® pieces. He said that he could make his toys exactly how he wanted his toys to look.
This got me thinking and I wondered if he could actually do it, print toys and figures that are protected by copyrights. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just print that missing Monopoly® piece?
After running a search, it turns out that he can print out toys. There are multiple websites that provide the files for various figures and ships from major toy collections. Being an IP attorney, I then wondered how the websites were able to provide those files. It turns out that the websites have a takedown policy and states that it will take down any files that an owner believes violates its intellectual property rights. This might provide a type of safe harbor for those site owners, however, some savvy toy makers are licensing various toys for people to print. This provides an otherwise overlooked revenue stream and is creating greater brand loyalty.
With the average cost of a 3D desktop printer around $400 and the licenses for toy files relatively cheap, maybe my son is on to something. Printing toys at home that are customizable and fun, may be the way of the future.