3D printing – a challenge in IP rights and civil liability

The three-dimensional printing (“3D printing”) is a technological process where materials (such as liquid molecules or powder grains) are joined or fused together under computer control to create a three-dimensional object. The 3D printing is considered as an important element of the ‘new industrial revolution’ and it will potentially transform the production and services in Europe. In the previous few years the EU spent considerable amounts on research projects in 3D printing and the funding continues in the future.
However, the application of 3D printing technology raises serious legal questions in relation to civil liability and intellectual property rights. In particular, the main question is if a 3D-printed product injures someone or causes material damages, who is responsible? The designer, the owner or the maker of the printer? Further, the 3D printing will presumably affect the current regulations on intellectual property rights; the patent and trademark systems.

In order to pave the way for a new legislative proposal, the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs has been entrusted to drawn up an own-initiative report on 3D printing and the related challenges. The Committee presented the draft report on 22 February 2018. Since then, several amendments to the report have been submitted. The Committee will vote about the final adoption of the report in April 2018.

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