... "We believe that things like three-dimensional printers, scanners and such are just the first. We believe that in the nearby future you will print your spare parts for your vehicles."
A vision that drives a shard of fear into the world of material manufacturing and joy into the hearts of lawyers!
3D printing, which has long existed in the industrial world, has started to infiltrate the hobbyist community in recent years, according to German newspaper DW World which reports: "Fablabs" have sprung up in cities worldwide that teach people how to print physical objects, ranging from spare parts to art, and even edible objects.
The process is an "additive" manufacturing technique that essentially takes digital data and, with the help of a robotic arm, forms a physical object by "printing" or releasing a hardening substance like plastic in thin layers without a mold.
As utopian (or Orwellian) as data-to-object manufacturing may sound, it's a development rapidly gaining momentum and one that poses unprecedented implications for intellectual property law, encompassing patents, copyrights and trademarks.
Currently, the judicial landscape in unclear on the issue.
Last year, Dutch designer Ulrich Schwanitz developed a 3D object, naming it Impossible Triangle, which he sold through the 3D design company Shapeways. He later forced Thingiverse, an open-source repository site for 3D models, to remove instructions of how to recreate the shape, which was delivered by a former Shapeways intern.
Schwanitz's efforts are believed to be the first formal attempt to apply copyright law to 3D content.
In the months and years ahead, patent lawyers and open source advocates in their droves will explore to what extent existing intellectual property legislation impacts on 3D printing and other new technologies that transform digital data into objects.
The sound you hear in the background is the smacking of lawyerly lips!