Intellectual Property and Additive Manufacturing / 3D Printing: Strategies and Challenges of Applying Traditional IP Laws to a Transformative Technology

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From lithium-ion batteries to human organs, the boundaries of additive manufacturing innovation are rapidly expanding. Traditionally reserved for industrial applications, additive manufacturing (also known as three-dimensional 3D printing) is creeping into mainstream and consumer use. With larger scale adoption comes a significant increase in intellectual property (IP) disputes among those seeking to benefit from this transformative technology. To survive these inevitable clashes over valuable IP assets, rights holders need to understand the relevant, complex, and rapidly-evolving legal landscape, including its multiple opportunities and pitfalls. This Article reviews the advantages and limitations of legal strategies used to create, protect, attack, and defend stakeholders. IP in this burgeoning field. Specifically, it examines the increasing difficulties faced in seeking protection under current patent laws and doctrines. It further explores how patent, trade secret, copyright, and other IP laws assist and challenge those seeking to prosper from additive manufacturing.

© 2016 Bryan J. Vogel. Published in Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, Vol. 17, Iss. 2.

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