Trademarks & Brands in 3D Printing

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Wake Forest Journal of Business and Intellectual Property Law

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Wake Forest J. Bus. & Intell. Prop. L.


The traditional model of delivering goods to customers has been centered around manufacturers making, distributing, and marketing goods. Traditional manufacturers have produced the goods on their own, filed trademarks to indicate the source of origin of those goods, and built globally linked manufacturing facilities with complex supply chains to deliver goods to retail channels and consumers. However, 3D printing changes and redefines this model. In a 3D printing world, the consumer can become both the producer and the end customer. This paper focuses on one form of IP — trademarks — and provides an analysis of the interplay between 3D printing and trademark doctrine and policy. It analyzes trademark law issues from the context of traditional manufacturers of goods, and suggests that trademarks are deemphasized in the era of 3D printing. This paper provides a distinction between trademarks as property rights and brands as strategic business assets. It suggests that traditional manufacturers deemphasize their trademark enforcement strategies and refocus on branding strategies in an era of 3D printing.

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