3D Printing

3D Printing has the Power to Challenge our Legal Systems

At 3DPI we know very well how 3D printing and 3D scanning are disrupting the way we imagine products, the way we consume them and manufacture them. Everyday we report how industries are being challenged by these new technologies. With the digitalisation of physical products, the “DigiCalisation” of our world, objects become easily movable, replicable, storable, customisable…

In the last two decades we saw how internet transformed the music and the video industries, bringing with it plethora of legal challenges. With 3D printing and 3D scanning, the forces in action are way bigger. These technologies have the power to disrupt industries worth $75,000,000,000,000 – the value of goods produced each year on our planet. A revolution of this magnitude will of course mean challenges for every aspect of our economic, political and legal systems.

It is therefore natural to see large law firms preparing themselves to support their customers in a wide range of possible issues ranging from intellectual property rights, product liability, compliance, regulatory, insurance, tax and other areas.

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Bird & Bird: “No one knows how the law’s going to change, but it has to.”

In 2014, Bird & Bird, the international law firm comprised of 1,100 lawyers in 28 offices across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, was one of the first to invest significant resources to help its clients in dealing with legal issues related to 3D printing or 3D scanning. Sophie Eyre, Partner at Bird & Bird, said at that time “It’s obvious that the demarcation lines between manufacturers and consumers are changing. Issues of traceability and product testing are going to be very important, and what about questions of blame if there’s an injury. Is it the 3D model software? The printer? The operator? Or the warnings – or lack of warnings – as to the types of materials to use? All of those issues are going to arise, whereas before it’s been very clear-cut. It cannot be that it’s going to go under current consumer legislation. It will have to be elevated to negligence claims, and people are going to have to prove who within the chain put the defect into the product. Very clear disclaimers would be vital for insurer. And finally, if you’re a business supplying someone with a product you need to know into which jurisdiction you’re supplying that product. But if you’re sending out CAD files electronically you don’t know if they’ve gone to Outer Mongolia, Belgium, or the US, where the penal damages can be horrific.”

Her advice to everyone was very clear: Massive risk management. According to her, “No one knows how the law’s going to change, but it has to.”

Hunton & Williams launches a 3D Printing team to support its clients

Following in Bird & Bird’s footsteps, Hunton & Williams, a large international law firm with 800 lawyers in 19 offices,  has just decided to launch a cross-practice 3D printing team to advise clients as they explore this technology. Maya M. Eckstein, head of the firm’s intellectual property practice group, is leading the effort. Maya is adopting an holistic approach that should encompass all the domains being challenged by the new technology. She stated “We are formalizing work we have been doing since the emergence of this transformative manufacturing process, and we are poised to advise on the new legal issues arising in 3D printing in intellectual property, product liability, compliance, regulatory, insurance, tax and other areas.”

Drawing on the talents of a multi-practice group of lawyers already assisting clients with these matters, the 3D printing team at Hunton & Williams will give clients an advantage as they consider the opportunities presented by using 3D printing in their operations. In addition to Eckstein, the team includes partners A. Todd Brown for litigation and products liability matters, Eric J. Hanson for intellectual property issues, Brian L. Hager for corporate concerns, Rita Davis for tax-related litigation issues, and Walter J. Andrews and Michael S. Levine for insurance and reinsurance advice.

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Open Design hopefully to follow the success of Open Source coding

It’s too early to say how the legal systems will react to 3D printing and 3D scanning. We can only hope that creativity will be fostered and that Open Design will thrive as Open Source coding did over the last twenty years.