3D Printing | Inducing to Violate Intellectual Property

The vendors of 3D printing software and services must be careful to avoid encouraging users to violate the patent, copyright or trademark of others.

Manipulate an Image

Imagine a software vendor tells kids to:

1. scan a 3D image of their favorite toy vehicle;
2. use the software to manipulate the image to add cool new features, like wings or monster tires; and
3. print a model of the manipulated image.

The maker of the original toy might have a claim against the software vendor for inducing the kids to violate intellectual property.

Toymakers often claim copyright and trademark protection for their toys.   But when kids make reproductions of the toys, they may be violating that protection.


Widespread encouragement for kids to violate IP may constitute illegal inducement.

Courts have recognized a tort for inducing others to violate intellectual property.  Music companies, for example, won a judgment against peer-to-peer network Limewire for inducing users to make unauthorized copies of music.  Evidence in the case showed that Limewire intentionally targeted music pirates for membership and use of its service.

Many New Manufacturing Technologies

This tort issue applies not just to 3D printing.  It applies to all of the many new technologies that enable localized, custom, computer-driven manufacturing.  One such technology is the stonemaker, which makes unique, precision stones on-location at a construction site.  The shape and other features of each stone are dictated by software.  Imagine a home owner using the stonemaker, and software templates from an "intellectual property pirate" to make stones depicting copyrighted figures, like Disney characters.

Mr. Wright teaches the law of data security and investigations at the SANS Institute.

Related Article: 3D printing fair use

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