3D printing has, in the scope of a just a few years, moved from a technology on the periphery—primarily used by large companies for industrial manufacturing—to the mainstream—a technology on the minds, if not inside the homes, of consumers. The emergence of low-cost printers, accessible CAD software, and websites like Thingiverse and Shapeways mark an industry reaching a new stage of maturity. This unique moment, however, is not without its growing pains. As opportunities for companies and individuals to profit from 3D printing expand, claims of intellectual property theft are also on the rise.
In the past year alone, two cases of alleged theft have grabbed the headlines. In one, San Diego-based 3D printing company SD3D was accused of taking without permission a skateboard design placed on Thingiverse by the Italian designer Simone Fontana. In another case, the eBay seller just3dprint was embroiled in a public spat when it was accused of improperly downloading numerous designs from Thingiverse and then offering to sell products printed from those designs.