Bournemouth University Professor of Intellectual Property and Innovation Law, Dinusha Mendis, has just published a report making recommendations to enhance the competitiveness of the 3D printing sector in Europe. Working alongside a team of academic and industry partners across Europe, the BU Professor was awarded the project in 2018 by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. The full study on intellectual property in AM can now be downloaded and viewed here.
The study provides an overview of the industrial applications of 3D printing across seven selected sectors – health, aerospace, automotive, consumer goods/electronics, energy, industrial equipment/tooling and construction/building – identifying potential challenges, opportunities and policy recommendations in the field of intellectual property for businesses. It also considers the intellectual property implications of different elements throughout the 3D printing process – from designing a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) file to distributing and licensing the product.
The Co-Investigators of this project include Dr Julie Robson (Bournemouth University, UK), Dr Rosa Ballardini (University of Lapland, Finland), Professor Dr Jan Nordemann (Boehmert & Boehmert, Germany), Professor Phill Dickens (Added Scientific Ltd, UK), Dr Maria del Carmen Calatrava-Moreno, Mr Alfred Radauer (Technopolis Group, Austria) and Hans Brorsen (Germany).
Navigating intellectual property in AM
3D printing is a relatively new technology. Recently it has enjoyed upscaled popularity due to its effectiveness in rapidly producing visors, face masks and ventilator parts during the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, several IP issues emerged during the recent crisis with respect to emergency 3D printing of parts based on patented designs.
Ahead of the report’s publication in April 2020, a workshop was hosted in Brussels on 14 October 2019. The workshop was attended by academics, practitioners, businesses and policymakers bringing together key stakeholders in the field of 3D printing and international property laws. During the workshop, Ben Redwood (3D Hubs), Phil Reeves (Reeves Insight Ltd) and Phill Dickens (Added Scientific Ltd) considered the future of manufacturing and its different applications and uses for the industry as well as consumers.
Thereafter, various issues from the Study were explored in a panel discussion. Panelists including Lieven Claerhout / Bram Smits (Materialise NV), Ann Marie Shillito (Anarkik3D), and members of the project team (see below), considered IP issues in light of the views from industry, obtained as part of the Study. In bringing the workshop to its conclusion, Jean-Francois Romainville (IDEA Consult) spoke about next steps, in taking this project and other similar projects forward. Virginie Fossoul, (Legal and Policy Officer, European Commission), closed the workshop with some concluding remarks.
COVID-19, AM and IP’s
“The report is coming out at a good time because 3D printing is very much in the news because of Covid-19. Our report considers the development of industrial 3D printing from a legal perspective” said Professor Dinusha Mendis. “The European Commission wanted to really understand how businesses can use 3D printing to assist the competitiveness of the 3D printing and additive manufacturing sector and reach its potential in Europe. The current intellectual property framework was created long before 3D printing came into being, so it’s not designed to deal with something such as 3D printing which leads to a number of challenges. The project considers how these challenges can be addressed or overcome across all sectors – including health.”
Professor Mendis’ research focuses on the challenges to intellectual property rights as a result of emerging technologies. Her edited book titled ‘3D Printing and Beyond: Intellectual Property and Regulation’ was published last year by Edward Elgar publishers. She continues to investigate the policy implications of 3D printing during the COVID-19 pandemic.