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Five Predictions for 3D Printing Litigation


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Earlier this week I spoke on a panel at Florida State University’s Stacking Layers symposium on 3D printing technologies and applications.  My colleagues included Professor David Orozco from FSU and John Londot from Greenberg Traurig. 

Current technology has the ability to scan an existing object and make a physical copy within minutes. 

What does the future hold in store?  No one knows for sure….but here are five (5) predictions I made this week:

  1. Design Patents will dramatically increase in filing.  They are easier to litigate and have greater options for damage recovery for infringement.  There are only about 400 design patent examiners now while there are 8,000 patent examiners total.  Within 10 years the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office will have over 1,000 design patent examiners.
  2. Semi-Automated Copyright Deposit. Built into the Rhino, 3DSystems and other 3D design software will be the ability to streamline a copyright deposit with the U.S. Copyright Office.  Creative designs deposited within three (3) months of publication (or before actual infringement) are entitled to attorneys’ fees, court costs and statutory damages up to $150,000 per violation.  The government fee for making the deposit is only $35.
  3. Midsize and Small Content Producers will form trade groups analogous to the Business Software Alliance to enforce copyright and design patent protection on behalf of its members.  These trade groups will likely have IP experts on staff to handle new issues as they come up for these 3D manufacturers.
  4. Privateering.  For IP holders finding others infringing on their designs, a new breed of IP attorneys will arise that will litigate on contingency.  50% of the funds recovered with go to the copyright holders and the remainder to the attorney.  As the attorney will have a personal, vested interest in recovery, look for highly aggressive activity and questionable ethics. 
  5. Streamlined Litigation.  For highly infringed objects, attorneys will initiate a first litigation and get a judgment finding a copyright violation based on the digital 3D file.  Subsequent litigation will be nearly automated because the previous court findings, orders and discovery will be nearly the same.

Will these predictions play out?  I cannot guarantee anything other than technology will keep changing and the legal system will need to keep pace.

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