Dealing with IP Risks and 3D Printing

Our current IP law systems are geared towards dealing with the manufacture, distribution, sale, etc. of physical goods. One commonly used method for enforcing IP rights is cross-border customs detentions, but on-the-spot manufacture and manufacture of very small production runs mean that the number of products crossing international borders is reducing, thus rendering border detention ineffective. There are some things that companies can do now to avoid such potentially risky disputes – for example, by having patent applications drafted from the outset in a way that helps prevent unauthorised parties from creating and distributing CAD files of an innovative product. It is critical that relevant steps are taken at the planning and creation stages, for example when a patent application is drafted before its filing with a patent office. Secondly, patent applications drafted with only traditional manufacturing techniques in mind may well be technically unsuitable for covering AM. Because of this, it is likely that companies continuing to manufacture in traditional ways will face situations where their IP protection is no longer fit for purpose. Whatever their reason for not embracing AM, they should still bear in mind the dangers to their IP rights associated with alternative, AM methods.