3D printing, or additive manufacturing, as it is also known, has become the centerpiece for what our manufacturing future may look like. Influential commentators have dubbed 3D printing no less than the “Third Industrial Revolution”, and various national leaders have identified it as a matter of strategic importance.
Not surprisingly, given that 3D printing is a manufacturing phenomenon with the capacity to bring about profound industrial, economic and even social change, 3D printing will also raise a variety of legal challenges, including in intellectual property. There will be patent issues involving improvements in 3D printers and scanners; both trade secret and patent issues will arise in connection with the development of appropriate manufacturing materials. However, perhaps the most interesting IP questions will be in the areas of trademarks, copyright and design. This article will consider the trade mark implications of 3D printing, while copyright and design aspects will be discussed in a forthcoming article.