June 29, 2016 Articles

Doctrinal Quandaries with 3D Printing and Intellectual Property

Patent owners will want to control the digital files, and that is where the doctrinal difficulties begin

By Lucas S. Osborn

Three-dimensional (3D) printing technology will challenge how we think about tangible and digital objects. Objects that can be printed in three dimensions exist in a world where the difference between the tangible item and its digital representation is greatly diminished. As 3D printing technology matures, intellectual property (IP) law will increasingly need to respond to a universe in which the digital and tangible worlds move closer together. 

This article highlights some doctrinal difficulties with 3D printing and IP. It does not attempt to solve the dilemmas, only to catalogue them and create a framework for analyzing them. For the most part, it leaves policy questions of what should happen aside. 

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