Intellectual Property & 3D Printing: A changing landscape

Paris in the springtime, the phrase doesn’t immediately call to mind tear gas and improvised missiles. But it is against that background I find myself sat in the lobby of a conspicuously boutique Montmartre hotel sipping red wine with IP counselor John Hornick, while outside some of the estimated 100,000 demonstrators clash with police nearby. That morning Hornick delivered his provocatively titled presentation, “3D Printing will rock the world” at the Paris edition of the Inside 3D Printing conference and expo. As actual rocks shook the streets outside, Hornick provided additional insight into his earlier themes: “the world of 3D printing and its potential future impact on business, manufacturing, the law and crime, and, basically, life as we know it.”

Hornick takes an expansive view of the 3D printing landscape and muses on the implications for his profession. In a nutshell, what happens when tangible goods become free flowing digital files? 3D printing, Hornick says later, is part of the, “democratization of manufacturing.” This is an idea that has intrigued for centuries and may resonate with some of the demonstrators in Paris. Published in 1899, ‘Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow’ is about techniques of production and distribution. The book’s author, scientist and anarchist philosopher, Kropotkin wrote, “Have the factory and the workshop at the gates of your fields and gardens, and work in them.” In such a decentralized system, where production runs might consist of a single unit, how can current methods of regulation and enforcement adapt? This is, “what I call 3D printing ‘away from control,’ which means the ability to make a part or product without anyone knowing about it or being able to control it,” says Hornick.

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