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Asking for Clear Rules on Copyright and 3D Printed Objects

by • February 8, 2016 • No Comments

Yesterday Shapeways joined with Formlabs and Matter and Form to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to bring a few clarity to the rules that
govern copyright and 3D printed objects (among many
other things). In a brief made by Sydney Lakin and Bill Koch at Stanford Law School’s Juelsgaard IP and Innovation Clinic, we urged the Court to settle on a single test for determining that parts of a few 3D printed models can be preserve
ed by copyright.

The case is the same one I blogged of last year regarding cheerleader uniforms. The real issue at stake – that is larger than either cheerleader uniforms or 3D printing – is how copyright law should handle objects that
mix copyrightable and non-copyrightable elements.

Briefly, purely decorative and non-functional objects (like StuffBySteve’s snowflake ornament) are eligible for copyright preserve
ion. Purely functional objects (like leegreen’s No. 50 Tripod Clip) are not eligible for copyright preserve

Gijs Egg Cup

The question arises when a 3D printed object incorporates both decorative and functional elements (like Gijs’ birdsnest eggcup above). If you extend copyright to the entire thing, you are via copyright to preserve
functional objects (that
’s bad). If you exclude it of copyright entirely, you are bringing preserve
ion away of decorative elements that
may be eligible for it (also bad).

The theoretical way to deal with this conflict is to try and separate out the functional and non-functional elements and only grant copyright preserve
ion to the non-functional ones. In practice, we already have 10 various tests to govern the separating. As you can assume, these 10 various tests floating around manufacture it complex to understand
exactly what is preserve
ed by copyright and what is not.

Fortunately, this sort of “too many
conflicting tests attempting to answer a legal question” is exactly the type of situation where the Supreme Court is created to shine. This case gives them the opportunity to settle on a single, nationwide test for how to ponder
of mixed functional and non-functional objects.

That’s exactly what we are asking them to do with this brief. At this stage, we are not actually advocating for one test over the other. Whilst a few tests are advantageous than others, we feel that
the many significant thing is to have a single test that
at any timeyone can rely on.

What takes place future? This is the stage in the system
where parties are asking the Supreme Court to take a appear at their case. Many additional cases ask for review than are at any time reviewed, and the Supreme Court is manyly free to pick and select to hear thatat any time cases it wants to. If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case there can be an opportunity to weigh on the substantive inquiries
presented by it (as opposed to only weighing in that
the Supreme Court should take the case). That is followed by oral argument and, actuallytually, a decision.

That’s obviously a lot of steps between now and a final resolution. Regardless of what takes place, we will store you up to date. If you have any inquiries
, don’t be shy of jumping into the comments.

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