3-D printers are a remarkable technological advance. The ability to create three-dimensional objects quickly and easily is a valuable one. However, there are challenges to intellectual property protections inherent in these devices. Any new technological advance changes the landscape of intellectual property enforcement somewhat, from the printing press to digital cameras in everyone's pockets. 3-D printers are no exception.
According to Mondaq, there was recently a case in which a small manufacturer designed and 3-D printed an iPhone dock inspired by the television and book series "Game of Thrones." Upon receiving a letter from the rights holder for the series, he discontinued sales and refunded money to his customers who had already made a purchase but not yet received a shipment. This case illustrates the importance of vigilance over one's intellectual property as the sources and methods of infringement continue to proliferate. It is not just large players who pose a threat in today's world.
Indeed, 3-D printer users may consider themselves hobbyists and not understand they are seriously infringing on intellectual property rights.
"I guess it kind of snowballed in publicity," Fernando Sosa, the creator of the 3-D item in question, told Wired. "I didn't think it would get this big. And all of a sudden, we got a letter from HBO."
The piracy of objects that 3-D printing opens for a wide variety of producers should be a topic of concern and interest to any holders of intellectual property rights.