Printing and Licensing 3-D Designs

The Internet is a democratizing force. In Makers, Chris Anderson (@chr1sa) writes that “the beauty of the web is that it democratized the tools both of invention and production…Computers amplify human potential: they not only give the people the power to create but can also [to] spread their ideas quickly, creating communities, markets, even movements.”

When it comes to manufacturing, people no longer need to sell factories that “control the path to market.” Instead, people can sell directly to consumers through websites.

Using 3-D printers, people can easily manufacture their own designs and even license out the design for others to print at home.

Once 3-D printers become as ubiquitous as 2-D printers, we will have an entire industry based on the printing and licensing of designs.

What if you print a licensed design and you do not like it? What will the law be in regards to refunds? Will everything be final sale? I predict that proliferation of 3-D printing will outpace government regulation. This will create confusion when legal issues arise, and undoubtedly they will come up.

Even if the government creates statutes and regulations, there will be an underdeveloped case law to interpret these policies. Furthermore, the lawsuits will likely have an international component, making the law even more unclear. Anyone from anywhere can create a design that could be printed by anyone, anywhere. Which law will govern? Will the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law provide rules on 3-D printing? If so, will Ontario properly ratify it and incorporate it into statute? Will the lawsuits be class actions? Otherwise, who can afford to sue on a cheap 3-D printed object?

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