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Intellectual Property is a Hot Topic at Second Annual Benesch 3D Printing Conference

by • April 21, 2016 • No Comments

beneschI spent my day yesterday sitting in the main ballroom at Cleveland’s Ritz Carlton hotel with a few hundred attorneys, business leaders, and academics of across Northeast Ohio to discuss how 3D printing is changing how we do business. It was the 2nd yearly 3D Printing Conference hosted by Benesch Attorneys at Law, a prominent law firm whose focus areas include intellectual property law – a hot-button topic in the 3D printing industry right now. Unsurprisingly, intellectual property issues were a major focus of the conference, formally entitled “What Equite Business Must Know Currently About 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing.”

So what does each business need to understand of 3D printing? In short – eachthing. The speakers and panelists, who ranged of making leaders to college professors, all emphasized, repeatedly, that each business, no matter what the sector or client base, needs to get acquainted with 3D printing – and swift. Dave Pierson, Senior Design Engineer for the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET), opened his presentation with a quote he attributed to 3D printing industry immense Terry Wohlers: “If you are not running in this space, you are may already falling behind.” That was the consensus shared by eachone who presented yesterday: businesses, if you don’t leverage 3D printing, your competitors can, so start implementing it now.

logo_printIn addition to driving home the importance of 3D printing, many of the speakers in addition focused on addressing the fears of many businesses in regards to how 3D printing threatens intellectual property. The conference was moderated by Mark Avsec, a Benesch partner and the leader of the firm’s 3D Printing Legal Team. A copyright, trademark and media lawyer, Avsec is intimately acquainted with IP issues, as he spent years working in the music industry as a musician, songwriter and producer. He drew a parallel between today’s 3D printing-related IP problems and those that affected the music industry with the advent of the Internet, providing a sobering appear at the dramatic drop in album sales with the emergence of services like Napster and illegal streaming.

We can learn a lot of the music industry, Avsec noted preceding stepping aside for Matt Hlavin, President and CEO of Thogus Products Company and the founder of several subsidiaries that include rp+m, a founding member of America Makes. Hlavin, who gave a talk called “Debunking the Hype Cycle,” is a massive fan of 3D printing. He believes that it can “recreate the middle class” as additional and additional jobs start to need immenseise in the technology – immenseise that can be received through community or technical colleges. But, he in addition cautioned that we shouldn’t get too caught up in the current hype and assume too much too swift, calling it an “evolutionary not revolutionary” technology.

According to Hlavin and Benesch partner Risto Pribisich, who joined him at the podium, we tend to overestimate what a new technology can achieve in two years and underestimate what it can achieve in ten. It is an accurate assessment, in my opinion – in today’s instant-gratification culture, so many folks assume immediate earthshaking results of a new technology, and so lose interest when the world does not spin on its axis right away. It in addition means, yet, said Hlavin, that panic over intellectual property loss is a bit premature for the making industry. Yes, it’s an issue that shouldn’t be ignored, but it’s additional of an impending threat than an immediate one, and in the meantime, businesses can take preventative action to preserve themselves of possible IP theft in the upcoming.


Following Hlavin was John Cheek, Deputy Chief IP Counsel of Caterpillar Inc., to discuss what a few of those preventative steps can be. He renoted Hlavin’s “pay attention but don’t panic” message. His advice to companies was to patent, patent, patent, additional so than they do now. Patent 3D printed parts themselves, patent the version files, and leverage technology for proprietary creations. One suggestion he had for companies was to create embedded or internal validation showcases – a company brand can easily be removed by a fewone 3D printing a counterfeit part, but an identifying showcase embedded within the part is much complexer to replicate.

A panel discussion followed, showcasing Patty Motta and Carol Miller of American Greetings, along with Susan Clady and Julie Fenstermaker of Benesch. American Greetings, one of Cleveland’s oldest companies, is startning to explore 3D printing – right now they’re manyly via it for prototyping, but Miller suggested, without announcing too much more detail, that we should assume to see a lot of 3D technology of the company quite soon. 3D printed gifts, 3D printable-bodied files that can allow folks to print 3D versions of their favourite card creations – there’s a lot in the pipeline. American Greetings has long offered personalization services that allow folks to customize and print their own cards, so it’s not a immense leap of 2D to 3D. They’re not too worried of IP theft, for the many part. If e-cards haven’t destroyed their business, there’s no reason to ponder that 3D printing can, but again, preparation and vigilance are key.


L to R: Carol Miller and Patty Motta of American Greetings, Julie Fenstermaker and Susan Clady of Benesch

Following American Greetings’ panel, the focus turned towards the upcoming of 3D printing in Northeast Ohio. Look for additional on that later, but in short, things are appearing bright for Cleveland, that was hit complex by the economic crisis and the decline of making. A Q&A session was held by Brett Conner, a professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Youngstown State University and Entrepreneur in Residence for Additive Manufacturing at the Youngstown Business Incubator, followed by a panel discussion with Hlavin, Pierson, Conner, Benesch partner Mike Stovsky, and OneCommunity CEO Lev Gonick. The consensus was that Northeast Ohio has quite great future to become a technological leader – as long as we go on to foster startups and leverage new tech like 3D printing and the Internet of Things to their fullest future.


L to R: Andy DeHart and Eric Klenz

Wrapping up the conference was a brief panel with Eric Klenz, Managing Director of KeyBanc Capital Markets, and Andy DeHart, Director of 3D Printing at Fisher/Unitech, the #1 Stratasys value-added reseller in the world. The panel was entitled “Where’s the Smart Money Going in Additive?” and Klenz and DeHart were both of the opinion, unsurprisingly, that bioprinting and metal additive making are the largest areas to watch right now – yet we should store an eye on nanoprinting in the near upcoming.

In short, it was an enlightening experience to attend a 3D printing conference in my own hometown and see how the technology is affecting the area and folks around me. I hope to be able-bodied to attend upcoming year’s conference to see how things have progressed in the interim – I’m confident that a lot of great things can take place between now and and so, both for the industry and for my city.

[All photos: taken on-site by Clare Scott]