As of late, few hi-tech topics have captured as much interest as has 3D printing (aka 3D manufacturing or additive manufacturing). It is not surprising, therefore, that the IP aspects of 3D printing have attracted increased attention as well. In the main, the focus has been on copyright, design and trade mark issues with respect to the potential use of production files by end-users, and on patent rights in the 3D printing machines. However, it seems to me that there are two IP issues that have enjoyed far less coverage, despite their potential commercial importance, namely the branding of 3D printing manufacturers and IP protection of the manufacturing materials. 

As for the branding issue, it is connected with the current structure of the industry. Two US-based major companies appear to dominate—3D Systems, here and Stratasys, here. Both have parlayed internal development with aggressive acquisition activity which is intended to achieve industry consolidation. Indeed, Stratasys has been particularly active of this in late, having merged with the Israeli company Objet in 2012 and in June 2013 having purchased the Brooklyn-based company MakerBot, here. There is no single technology for 3D printing, which in part explains the interest by both companies in acquiring various technologies in the field, when available and where appropriate.

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