3-D Printing Redesigning Products Liability Law

3-D Printing Redesigning Products Liability Law

In 2014, Netflix released the documentary “Print the Legend,” which explores the 3-D printing industry by focusing on several competing companies. The documentary also delves into copyright and intellectual property matters. From printing a soap dish to controversially reproducing art  to producing smart parts for NASA, 3-D printers are increasingly and seemingly able to print it all. But how will this exponentially growing technology disrupt products liability law and more?

According to The Legal Intelligencer, with 3-D printing, the “traditional supply chain goes out the window, along with many basic notions about strict liability.” Because few courts have had the opportunity to address this so far, some attorneys have taken the lead in familiarizing themselves with the emerging technology and the potential intellectual property, product liability, insurance and tax matters around it.

As Maya Eckstein, a partner and head of Hunton & Williams LLP’s intellectual property practice group, which features a newly formed 3D printing team, told Bloomberg BNA:

“While some legal questions involve the application of old law to new technology, other legal questions require new thinking and a deep understanding of the technology.”

Eckstein also revealed that the most significant intellectual property issue for companies is how they can protect their IP (trademark, patent or copyright) as the popularity of 3-D printers at home continues to increase. She advised the following measures:

– Police the marketplace for counterfeit goods
– Issue DMCA takedown notices on sites that offer computer-aided design (CAD) files
– Consider new technologies for identifying legitimate products

Eckstein also advised how manufacturing companies can avoid and manage product liability risks:

– Ensure that upstream and downstream agreements provide proper provisions regarding products liability and indemnification
– Ensure that agreements with distributors and retailers who receive CAD files properly allocate liability
– Ensure that distributors and retailers are properly trained and have the proper knowledge for printing their products

As the technology continues to develop, the disruption of the supply chain and product liability law will continue, too. According to Judy Okenfuss, an Ice Miller attorney, to The Legal Intelligencer, “That’s why this is of interest. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”


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