In that creating this design was a

In the past three years, we have witnessed extraordinary growth
in the amount of legal practice at the intersection of law and 3D printing. For
instance, since 1990s the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
has been investing in 3D printing, and the military has joined the bandwagon to
fund projects fo 3D printed food, clothing, skin, weaponry and equipment. Given
its long-term potential to re-shape the legal system, as far as the ways in
which the laws are already moving 3D printing into courtrooms and legislatures.
The story of the first 3D printing-related copyright takedown request is a case
in point. A designer named Ulrich Schwanitz created a 3D model for an optical
illusion called a “Penrose triangle.” He uploaded his design to a website,
Shapeways, that allows designers to sell 3D printed objects and invited the
public to purchase a copy in the material of their choice. He also, for better
or worse, both claimed that creating this design was a massive design
achievement and refused to tell anyone else how he made the object.

Purely artistic physical objects will be protected by
copyright as sculptural works. This category would include things like 3D
models of characters from movies, video games, and comics. That does not mean
that every reproduction of those objects will be infringement, but it does mean
that many will. However, as the Penrose triangle story suggests, the
intersection of 3D printing and copyright is often not a clean one, and the
situation tends to get complicated quickly.

As 3D printing and demonstrating develop in prevalence, it is
likely that we will see more organizations and people accepting they have a
copyright for an outline or protest and requesting expulsion of unapproved
forms. While most modern songs, movies, and pictures are protected by
copyright, the same cannot be said for physical objects. For that reason, when
a site receives a takedown request it may be wise to at least consider if the
object is protected by copyright in the first place. Sometimes the intersection
of 3D printing and copyright is a clean one.

In fact, A 3D printer is essentially able to re-create any
model of an object when provided with the specifications. The problem of patent
infringement is not new when a new technology is introduced to the market. In
the case of Sony Vs Betamax (also
known as the videotape format war), it was feared that the VCR would lead to
rampant copyright infringement because folks at home could potentially copy
television shows or movies, and display them. The Supreme Court determined that
the VCR was capable of substantial non-infringing purposes.1 Many
objects are not protected by copyright and thus, are protected by patent
rights. But, Patent owners face daunting challenge of asserting their property
rights against an international multitude of anonymous infringers. Firstly, Patent
law strictly defines infringement to include anyone who manufactures an
invention without authorization, whether for a commercial or a private purpose
and secondly, the 3D printing process’s digital nature establishes the
technology within a realm already plagued by rampant piracy, where millions of
individual violations occur within a single day. Of course, patent owners could
try to prosecute each infringer, assuming they have the ability to track But
this approach would require more time, money, and resources than most patent
owners would presumably want to spend. Also, most physical objects are not
really new or nonobvious enough to secure patent protection. Of those truly new
and nonobvious objects, only a portion of them are worth the trouble of
patenting. And of those that actually have been granted patent protection, only
a small portion will still be protected under patent’s 20-year term. The result
of all of this is that only a small portion of the objects coming out of a 3D
printer will actually be protected by intellectual property: those objects
protected by copyright and some number of useful objects protected by an active
patent. The rest – those objects that do something but are unprotected by
patent – will be free to be used by anyone for any purpose.

China has the necessary intellectual property laws in place
to manage potential IP issues that will challenge the growth of 3D printer use
and manufacturing. China’s first trademark law was enacted in 1982, and
in 2001 it amended Article 8 of the Trademark Law of the People’s Republic of
China to include three-dimensional objects. The Patent law in the PRC presently
contains provisions which will

protect 3D designs. In Article 2 of the PRC Patent code,
designs may include a shape, as well as colour, pattern or combination of same.
Therefore, it is protected against infringement whether it is manufactured via
a 3D printer, or by a traditional manufacturing method, so long as the item is
registered as a design with the Chinese Patent Office. PRC
Copyright law protects artistic works and arguably 3D

representations of same. Article 22 of the PRC Copyright code
includes many defenses that would most likely be applicable to a consumer using
a 3D printer to replicate artistic work 61. Such defences include private
research and study 63. Copyright infringement will be addressed by Chinese

In early 2003, The Beijing High People’s Court ruled against
Chinese toymaker, Coko Toy Company, based in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin,
and in favour of Lego, a Danish toy company, in a copyright infringement
lawsuit that was based on “made-in-China” copies of Lego’s castles and pirate
ship designs. Lego claimed that it was “the first time that the Chinese
legal system has delivered a judgment that confirms copyright protection of
industrial design/applied art”.

1 Sony Corp. of Amer. v. Universal
City Studios Inc., 464 U.S. 417 (1984).