From utilitarian processes to the final appearance of designed objects ranging from jewelry to spare machine parts, get ready for a patent land grab of 3-D intellectual property. Industrial manufacturers are making shapes from fused bits of plastic and metal powder; shapes that previously weren’t possible. They’re looking up from their work on the shop floor and wondering, “Do I need a patent?”
“The last time I saw this kind of gold rush for patents was during the dot-com boom” of the late 1990s, said Peter Canelias, a patent attorney based in New York.
The 3-D technology has kept the Patent and Trademark Office busy, too. During the last decade, it has received more than 6,800 patent applications related to 3-D printing (also known as additive manufacturing). Since 2007, about 680 patents a year have been filed—39.6 percent more than 2002, when 487 patents were filed. Since 2003, the office has granted 3,500 patents related to 3-D printing.
The article is a fantastic survey of the patent frenzy and some of the possible implications of 3D printing for ‘traditional’ intellectual property protections.