Protecting 3dp Copyright ideas


An idea for 3d Printing Copyright infringements

Problem statement: I wanted to come up with some ideas on how to tackle the ever increasing – but nonetheless historical problem – of copyright infringement around printing and 3d scanning. 

There is a general agreement that 3d printing is coming out of the “hype” phase.

All you
I recall many moons ago I attended a talk on 3d printing where the speaker suggested 3d printers will come to have the same usage as photocopiers and laser printers. Sure while we need a printer in our homes sometimes, we tend to use a cost effective printer and that said not every house needs one. 3d printers will be a “nice-to-have” in most homes, but just like a photocopiers if I need a spare part printed I’ll go to my local Staples and print it.

And lo and behold that idea has come to fruition in less than 2 years through fully realized commercial platforms like the Staples 3d service.

Not only can I can do this via the Staples platform but I have access to  multitude of similar web services where I can order and print online and have it ready for pick up or delivered. Hence there are 100s of sites from the very basic to the very advanced and professional 3d printing hubs like Online 3D Printing Service | i.materialise for consumers and Stratasys Direct Express: The World’s Fastest Online 3D Printing Service for industry where any user can upload, design and print.

Thinking about 3d printing and IP protection

I have often wondered if these platforms are interested in anything that will protect them (and their customers) from IP infringement, copyright etc. IP is not my field but I’m guessing these platforms would be benefit from a layer of technology that protects them from litigation and IP Infringement. Think of when not too un-similar designs get uploaded and eventually printed the amount of headaches that could cause (or is causing) for corporations running these types of platforms. Who’s to blame?  Who gets dragged though the courts?  And wouldn’t it make more sense to simply avoid scenario altogether?

A theoretical idea for on-the-fly IP protection.

The 3d printing is pretty new to consumers. But its nothing new to industry.  Also known as rapid prototyping\additive manufacturing its been around for a long time. So long in fact that in aerospace\auto corporations have grown fiercely paranoid about design and innovation falling into the wrong hands. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a tool

  •  Examine an item (with a good dose of Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning)
  •  Figure out its shape of form
  • Compare the design to existing designs on a database
  • Return a Yes | No signal to proceed to print or upload
  • Trace a design back to a person\entity that created it
  • Find the responsible party for letting the design fall into the wrong hands (of a competitor).

The end effect (at least for 3dp)

Would be to block the infringement at source and prevent the distribution. Once the CAD or design is online the damage has been done.  Once the design is online the criminal\piracy activity has already taken place and a  platform like imaterilise could become the distributor.  Much like the post office shipping illicit material.

If 3dp hubs had a means of cross checking items against protected designs before it was uploaded to the platform. Its easy if a design blatantly infringes on an existing design it doesn’t get uploaded.

As an example lets take most obvious emblematic designs out there

The original Coca-Cola bottle.  As far as I’m aware is copyrighted.  If as designer I try to upload a design work to imaterialise or similar that uses Coca-Cola form in some way, then there should be a check against the original design. If it infringes then it doesn’t get uploaded.  The cross check would be technically possible. Whether it is practical or not is another question. But most CADs are precise, and for example the Coke bottle geometry is unequivocal.

Again for this we can use lots of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. For example Hitachi recently unveiled a tool that can detect  “more than 100” appearance and movement characteristics that the AI uses for high-speed detection and tracking of a person.

This means we are not very far away form on-the-fly image verification.

For more recent industry related designs (car parts etc, industrial designs, jewelry, etc) you would need to go back one step.

If a user wishes to reproduce (fraudulently) a copied auto-part or wrist watch, chances are they  will need to scan an original design 3d using a 3d scanner.

I would propose an embedded layer of security at the scan stage as an added functionality to cross check if the point-cloud (the output of the 3d scan process) matches a design on a central repository. If it does(match) the scan fails, or reports an alarm etc etc.

The Same idea would involve manufacturers being trusting enough to hand over their designs to a third party for a verification (unlikely)….or maybe even a part of the design would be enough for a check. See above example from Hitachi.

There’s value for scanner manufacturers

In the end both scanner and distributors of 3d materials could have a value-add of “IP Quality” to show their designs are up-to-scratch when it comes to IP infringement and protection. Meaning a consumer can reliably go to a reputable 3dp hub and download completely legal material. Like Pandora, etc.

I think the premise could work on pretty much any artistic item. Everything and anything that can be copied. That goes for 3dp, car-parts, design, paintings, music, media etc etc. All in all, the challenges and nuances of IP will most likely be the same.

In a sense there is a whole philosophical and Legal argument

That argument might be like the GoPro compatible kits. When is “GoPro Compatible” not jsut “3 tabs with a hole”. A bit like many famous (or not so) cases in music industry. When does a modification become IP infringement? if I slow the tempo down or add a beat?   Famous Copyright Infringement Plagiarism cases in Music. or in furniture design Ikea faces legal action over alleged copyright infringement

Same issues over and over with pretty much any creative /intellectual material. Along the way someone needs figure out the business, legal and artistic models to suit.

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