The IP protection will allow a company to sell a 3D design and then get paid for each printed part of that design. Of course there will be people willing to freely share their 3D designs and these can be printed as many times as required.
It sounds a whole lot like another patent troll: " Nathan Myhrvold, former chief technology officer at Microsoft, and the head of Intellectual Ventures, a company promoting what it calls innovation marketplace services, including amassing a huge portfolio of patents." since the initial action is the same. And it will ruin a whole bunch of chances for creativity by crushing the ability to copy small portions of a design. Look what digital rights management has done to our DVDs, making it hard to bypass all of the preview garbage each time, and preventing us from making a copy of just what we wish to watch.
So the best choice will be for everyone to avoid all of the troll ilk and not give them any business, nor any advice, and not to sell them anything. Possibly they might get the message. We just don't need trolls.
I know intellectual rights are important to developement of some cool stuff and let's face it, I like my name on patents, but sometimes this stuff gets so in depth when it comes to who came up with what when, I don't know if it's all worth it.
Here's the thing, though: as I understand it, it is not legal to copyright a physical object under US law or most Western nations. So, under current law, there is no legal way to stop someone from measuring some custom part or widget down to the last mircon, and creating a near-perfect copy. With the exception of brand-specific markings -- making fake Harley-Davidson *parts* would be legal (as long as they weren't sold as "authentic"), but those same parts including the H-D logo would violate trademark law, as I understand it, although copyright law would not apply.
Until recently, however, the cost of making such a high-fidelity copy was quite high, except for large-scale operations that could make back the startup costs on volume. Now, though, with the effect of Moore's Law on desktop-level 3D printing and scanning technology, those costs are dropping rapidly. The abiliity to distribute production-quality blueprints over the internet is another factor. And that's making patent-holders nervous.
So putting DRM into 3D printers would seem like it does not have a legal leg to stand on, strictly speaking. But we could see some sort of private "corporate alliance," rather like scanners that will refuse to scan dollar bills, or the "fingerprints" that many brands of inkjet printers add to their prints without the owner's knowledge.
Of course, this gets us right into murky waters. Like DMCA takedowns of Youtube videos where people are singing "Happy Birthday," what happens if DRM culture is allowed to infect the nascent mass 3D-printing market? Will corporate interests try to block our tools from printing items that are "too similar" to existing items on the market? Will they "phone home" to "Righthaven 2.0" if we try to print something we're not "supposed" to?
Open-source tools can probably get around this, the same way that Linux allows people to watch DVDs without paying the MPAA for the "privilege." But there's still the spectre of government regulation -- we've recently seen the legal grey area that 3D-printing firearms or components thereof falls into. What happens if (when?) the government decides to require that any 3D printer is legally required to have built-in blocks against printing anything "too similar" to a blacklist of components? And corporate interests begin lobbying Congress for protection from "material property piracy"?
At IMTS this year, there a was a cadre' of new 3D scanners which could quickly copy any part, make a model and send the data to a machining center or rapid prototype system in order to produce clones of the original right down to the highest tolerances. Parts which can take engineers years to design and develop can now be dupilcated in polymers and metals mere minutes. Can this technology be controlled? I'll predict, no, not a chance now. We are moving at the speed of the internet and the RP, SLA, genie is out of the bottle. Welcome to the new paradigm of manufacturing. Materials and processes will be king while design will be secondary, if not even a commodity within a few years.
I have spent enough time in software to be absolutley terrified about the prospect of any type of "control" on a CAD model. One need only look at the what happened to a site that supported an educational blog with 1.5 million users. A single user posted an old test that was stuck in a chache. A DMCA takedown notice dropped the entire site. The nightmare scenario is that a single "illegal" screw can render an entire automobile, aircraft or even a factory unworkable. While the security software may work great for stopping, it is not so great for telling you what the "offending" part is. When seconds count, the last thing you want is for engineers to argue with lawyers for weeks.
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