Legal implications of 3D printing in 3D fab+print magazine

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The best stories are told by the people that are professionally involved in the field of 3D printing and all its implications themselves. In the first issue of 3D fab+print magazine , lawyer Hub Dohmen blogs about how he got professionally involved in the legal aspects of 3D printing and additive manufacturing, and what these entail.

Lawyer in Cockaigne

I started my professional life as a as techie and now I am a lawyer … how did this happen? Must be because – apart from my wife – I’ve always had trouble choosing. Before I started walking on my current career path, I tried a few options. For example: I built my own computer in the seventies and subsequently started programming. Then, being a car fanatic, I began working in automotive. When cars increasingly became a computer on wheels, I grabbed the opportunity to combine these two passions.

After a while I started wondering: what happens if somebody runs off with something I design or develop? To find the answer I studied law in my spare time, and got really excited about the legal profession. For a perfectionist like me, it was wonderful to have found a way to combine my deeply felt belief that the development of technology contributes to a better world by providing legal advice to technicians and designers.

And now I am professionally involved in the legal aspects of additive manufacturing, because from the moment I learned about this technology, I got enthusiastic about the possibilities: printing shapes that are impossible to create in another way, quickly creating a prototype, the printing of body parts, applications for aerospace, printing spare parts on location, and so on. Soon shopping for household items will be done by online shopping for print files, so you can print your new bucket at home. Plus, in essence you can 3D scan and print anything you like, which has consequences that really make my lawyer’s heart beat faster.

The consequence of quickly developing technologies is often that the law runs panting behind. We have to wait for the decisions of judges to get some certainty in this new field. Legal questions that arise in the field of 3D printing are for example: what do copyright, trademarks, and design law still mean in times when you can 3D scan an Eames chair for example, and then print it. Who should the owner of the Intellectual Property (‘IP’) on the chair hold liable? Is this the 3D printing service provider, or the party who orders the print? Does it matter if ordering a print is done by a consumer or by a company? Lots of questions, and there is more: patents are for example also affected.

For the criminal minds: if you are not allowed to hold a weapon because you do not have a license, then this also applies to a 3D printed weapon. But when can you actually be said to be in possession of this weapon? Once you download the print file? And is providing a scan of a weapon the same as providing a weapon?

And what about liability? Suppose a defective part of a machine is replaced with a 3D printed part, which then jams the machine. Product liability is a major issue for producers. So when a consumer experiences damage from a 3D printed product, who should be seen as the producer? The original designer? The manufacturer of the 3D printer? The provider of the file?

In line with the above: how can authenticity of a certain part be verified? Warranty conditions mostly hold that the warranty is void if you don’t use original parts for repair. But what are ‘original parts’ in the light of 3D printing? Will you need to download the manufacturer’s 3D file? Or can you scan an original item and use this?

Questions, questions … Many issues will be discussed in the courtroom and this ‘ Lawyer in Cockaigne’ is looking forward to every part of it.

Hub Dohmen

Hub Dohmen’s law firm – ‘ Dohmen Advocaten ‘ – consists of legal specialists who all had a technical or design education and have work experience in these fields. The firm specializes in Intellectual Property, IT and Technology.

Dit artikel verscheen in september 2015 in 3D fab+print magazine en in oktober 2015 op Ook interessant om te lezen: november 2014 Column: “3D-printen: onmiddellijk verbieden!” : technology-advocaat Hub Dohmen in Mechatronica&Machinebouw over additive manifacturing/3D-printing: een probleem voor copyright/auteursrecht, octrooi/patent, model en andere IP? Een innovatie om resoluut af te schaffen of om te om-armen?

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