3D Printing: Digital Infringement & Digital Regulation

Ebrahim, Tabrez Y. | January 1, 2016

3D printing is a rapidly-growing technology that enables creation of three-dimensional solid objects made from a digital Computer Aided Design (“CAD”) file. Patent law issues are particularly relevant and uncertain in the realm of 3D printing. Thus, analysis of the Patent Act is needed to better understand direct infringement (of either the use of a 3D printer, of a CAD file, or under the doctrine of equivalents), indirect infringement, and contributory infringement in the context of 3D printing. A key issue in this analysis is whether a CAD file should be viewed as making the object itself, since 3D printing involves creation of CAD files that can print the physical object at the press of a button. As the rapidly growing field of 3D printing blurs the line between the digital and physical world, it makes sense to develop new regulations and reform existing ones. Moreover, digital regulation must address cross-border digital commerce since separate steps of the 3D printing value chain be easily performed in multiple countries or by multiple actors, and easily transmitted across borders.