3D Printing: Digital Infringement & Digital Regulation

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Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property



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Nw. J. Tech. & Intell. Prop.


3D printing is a rapidly-growing technology that enables creating of three-dimensional solid objects made from a digital CAD file. Patent law issues are particularly relevant and also uncertain still 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 in an instant press of a button. Since the line between the digital and physical world is being blurred by 3D printing on a mass scale, 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.

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