Automotive manufacturer Honda has issued 3D printer manufacturer Prusa with a takedown notice for all Honda-related 3D printable files from its Printables 3D printing repository.
All models referencing the word “Honda” posted prior to 30th March 2022 have been removed from Printables with immediate effect, after the company was delivered a “huge legal document” covering every model Honda wished to have deleted.
A Prusa spokesperson told The Drive: “I can confirm to you that we have received a letter from a lawyer representing Honda, informing us that we were required to remove any model which used ‘Honda’ in the listing, the model itself, or one of several trademarks/logos also associated with Honda.
“This will also be related to the naming of the files itself (sic), as for Honda this would be considered as a violation of their trademark/patents.”
Honda’s takedown request
In the past, the additive manufacturing maker community has made available numerous open-source designs and files for accessories, attachments, and adaptors of well-known brands. Recent examples include a 3D printed adaptor for Sony’s PS5 DualSense controller and a levitating key switch mechanism for PC keyboards.
Furthermore, global electronics firm Panasonic has made more than 75,000 CAD files freely available to customers for its electronic components, while fellow carmaker Ford has released CAD files to enable customers to print their own Maverick pickup truck accessories.
However, several days ago makers began reporting on Reddit that their Honda-related 3D models had been removed from Printables “without warning”. Such files included washer fluid caps, roof latch handles, speaker brackets, and key housings, many of which reportedly had no Honda branding but were compatible with Honda vehicles.
According to Prusa, the mass deletion is the result of a takedown notice issued to the company by Honda for all 3D models on Printables that referenced the brand. Not wishing to get into a law fight with the automaker, and faced with a “very tight deadline” to respond to the letter, Prusa complied with the request.
Reportedly, the 3D files affected were not just those that contained Honda logos, but also specific items with certain shapes and dimensions the firm perceived as infringing on its trademarks.
From a trademark law perspective, a model named along the lines of “Honda Civic Speaker Mounting Brackets” could suggest the item was manufactured or endorsed by Honda, which risks confusion as to the source of the item and could be a potential trademark violation. However, a file named “Speaker Mounting Brackets for Honda Civic” could fall into the category of nominative fair use, where the item is being described without the implication of endorsement by Honda itself.
While Honda is obliged to protect its trademark and intellectual property (IP), the firm’s request to remove “any model which used ‘Honda’ in the listing” could be seen as a little overreaching. Prusa is reportedly attempting to enter into dialogue with Honda to restore the files, with founder Josef Prusa posting on the Reddit thread: “We are working with other companies to make them realize this should be embraced and not hunted down.”
Aside from Printables, Honda-related 3D files still remain available from the likes of Thingiverse and Thangs at the time of publishing.
3D Printing Industry has reached out to both Honda and Prusa for comment, and will update this article upon receiving further information.
IP and 3D printing
As the adoption of 3D printing has continued to grow over the years, questions regarding IP rights within the industry have also arisen. As the technology continues to evolve, experts have emphasized the importance for industry and makers alike to be aware of the risks of IP infringement regarding 3D printing.
The 3D printing maker community has been hit by various takedown notices before, most notably by the LEGO Group a few years back. The group targeted the maker community with a series of takedown notices in 2019, telling 3D Printing Industry the move was to ensure the “LEGO wordmark or IP protected elements” does not erode over time.
The European Commission has previously released studies analyzing the state of industrial 3D printing in relation to IP law, and last year received a position paper from the European Communities Trade Mark Association (ECTA) on 3D printing and its implications on Design Law. In particular, the paper addresses topics such as product definition, non-commercial acts, contributory infringement, and the potential impact of 3D printing in relation to spare parts.
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Featured image shows Honda has combined WASP 3D printing with hand-finishing to develop a unique motorbike prototyping process. Photo via Honda.