3 D Food Printers Reshaping Intellectual Property Law

Originally posted 2016-10-12 12:29:47


By  Soyeon Lee | amdlawgroup.com

Soon, printers will be used for more than just typing words and pictures onto the surfaces of different materials. 3-D printers, capable of manufacturing eclectic goods, including food and bioprinting of tissues and organs, will get us a step closer to obtaining any object, seemingly out of thin air. This powerful new technology will change the way we perceive consumer products and the way the copyright and intellectual property laws are implemented through productions.

With 3-D printers, consumers will be able to directly manufacture goods, which will not only save in cost and time but provide infinite possibilities to make customized products. While this technology is generating much excitement for its functions, it is expected to change the way we consume tangible goods.

Printable products are first coded onto a program then printed. This process involves copyright on multiple stages: copyright ownership belonging to the owner of the product’s idea, copyright on the file that contains programmed content of the specific object. Finally, the item could be protected by trademark or trade dress depending on the product (e.g., a company logo).

These steps question singular ownership of a product. The key is to figure out how to unify the varying copyright restrictions and make the printers easily usable for the masses. It is in the IP lawyer’s instinct to sue upon noticing copyright violations and the represented company’s interest to stop infringement through litigation. However, Michael Weinberg, a vice president and attorney for a nonprofit that advocates open Internet, implies to find methods of solution by observing the recent evolutions in technology.

In many ways, this issue correlates to the music industry in the digital age. When music files became readily accessible online, the music industry reconstructed its business method to transition to the new consumer trend. Softwares, such as iTunes and Spotify, were developed to preserve legal rights, while expanding the music market and supporting technological advancement. Similarly, it will be necessary to change the way print businesses work and for lawmakers to be mindful of the visions involved with the new printers.

According to McKinsey Global Institute’s publication, 3-D printing is one of the most anticipated future technologies that will “transform life, business, and global economy” by 2025. The currently marketable 3-D printers utilize metal and plastic, but the options of materials are quickly expanding.

Recently, NASA granted $125,000 for a project to develop a food synthesizer, which is being conducted by Anjan Contractor at the Systems and Materials Research Corporation in Austin. The working prototype will print nutritionally balanced food, combining macro and micronutrients in powder form, adequate for space traveling. Meanwhile, this mechanism is thought to become a global asset in fixing universal hunger problems.

3-D printers render imaginative number of positive capabilities. Instead of condemning the use of the product with a web of legal limitations, Weinberg suggests that a better idea would be to create a plan that would aid the potential of the invention, while respecting the ownership of the rights involved with the printing process, for example, by licensing downloadable 3-D plans.


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