Virtually anyone can choose to buy only one unit of a certain product (for instance a vase or toy rabbit), make a 3D scan of the product, process the scanned design in 3D processing software and 3D print multiple, identical copies. Printing can take place at home or at print shops which are rapidly emerging. To make things even worse, the resulting digital 3D scan can be disseminated easily by internet or other digital means, to enable others to print true 3D copies as well.
IP laws applicable
IP laws and regulations like copyright, design rights, patent and trademark laws equally apply to these new developments. And these laws and rules also apply in cyberspace and other digital environments.
These developments are fascinating from an IP law perspective. Not only because of the usual aspects of IP protection, like the protection of inventions within the area of the technology itself. Also the ease of dissemination and the difficulty of enforcement of laws and regulations in the digital online environment make this challenging for lawyers.
A comparison can be made with the struggle of the music industry and publishers with online content (music and ebooks).
American surveys show that IP and liability are considered as main threats to the success of 3D printing / additive manufacturing.