Easy access to 3D printing puts under test the protection afforded by intellectual property rights. In short the implication of the wider use of 3D printing will widen the scope of protection of:
(a) copyright not only in respect of images, design and sculpture being of artistic nature , but also to protect the underlying software to create the CAD and to use the 3D printer;
(b) design rights protecting the original 3D designs for shapes and configuration of products created by the 3D printer, particularly after the recent coming into effect of the Intellectual Property Act 2014;
(c) trade marks mainly for the 3D printers manufacturer’s brand;
(d) patents in respect to the protection of an invention potentially infringed by the components printed.
3D printing is something that children may come across in schools and libraries but hasn’t so far become ubiquitous. Toy manufacturer Mattel is hoping to change this though, with its ThingMaker 3D printer for children. The printer itself looks simple to use, has a range of safety features - printer door locking for example - and promises to simplify the loading of colour with a “filament system”. It comes with a $300 (£212) price tag, so isn’t cheap, but for the level of definition and quality of printing it provides it represents good value.