3D printing: a blessing or a threat to company value?

Patent attorney Thomas Prock explores the threats posed by additive manufacturing to automotive intellectual property portfolios

The world has progressively digitised in recent decades and the pace of change is increasing, changing products and industries beyond recognition. The ready and rapid adoption of digital technology in all parts of society is testament to the benefits digital technology provides. At the heart of these new technologies is the management of data flows, be that for the purpose of optimising manufacturing processes or assisting people in the performance of everyday tasks or even automating them altogether.

The automotive industry is no stranger to digitisation, and the particular intellectual property (IP) challenges it brings. Originally, IP conflicts were between rival automotive innovators, and solutions such as cross-licensing IP were relatively easy to agree and cost effective. More recently however, Non-Practicing Entities – entities that have no intention to make or sell the invention covered by IP – have bought up IP rights with the sole purpose of extracting royalty payments from automotive companies. The frequency of such cases has been exacerbated by the digitisation of the automotive industry and the surge in innovation, and need for IP, in the automotive data communication field.

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