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Is that the sound of 3D printed IP infringement?

by • August 14, 2016 • No Comments

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I have written and spoken extensively of 3D printing away of control, which means the skill to 3D print a part or product without anyone knowing of it or being able-bodied to control it. On the other hand Gartner does not use this term, 3D printing away of control appears to underlie its prediction which “By 2018, 3D printing can outcome in the loss of at very least $100 billion per year in intellectual property globally.”

IP infringement

Image: Shutterstock

Some of those losses can outcome of infringement of IP rights, namely, utility and create patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. Some of those losses can outcome of reverse engineering part creates. IP infringement violates the law. Reverse engineering does not; it is perfectly legal if done properly. And as long as the reverse engineered create is tweaked so it is not covered by any IP rights, parts 3D printed of the create do not infringe IP rights. Even if the reverse engineered part infringes IP rights, it in no way matters if the entire system takes place way of control. No one knows of and no one can control it.

Digital rights management (aka DRM) is a way of fighting illegal IP infringement, legal reverse engineering, and 3D printing away of control. If the digital blueprint is locked up or locked away, it can’t be copied and parts can’t be 3D printed without permission, or so the theory goes. Some individuals see DRM as an arms race in which IP infringers and legitimate reverse engineers can always be a few steps ahead. I have written of how 3D scanning is the Achilles Heel of IP protection for 3D printing for the reason it makes an end run around DRM and is a form of legitimate reverse engineering. A research team at the University of California Irvine not long ago demonstrated another legitimate, perfectly legal DRM endrun.

How did they do it?

The team, led by Professor Mohammad Al Faruque, director of UCI’s Advanced Integrated Cyber-Physical Systems lab, utilized a smartphone to record the operation of a Material Extrusion printing device as it printed a part. By reverse engineering the recorded sounds, the team recreated the part with approximately 90% accuracy.

To prevent this type of reverse engineering, Professor Al Faruque suggested outlawing smartphones of the vicinity of 3D printing devices and mixing the real sounds of the operating 3D printing device with white noise, to prevent the recording of a clean signal for reverse engineering. In practice, such precautions can most likely work only if the machine owner does not want to reverse engineer the part. Only machine owners who do not want to reverse engineer a part can outlaw recording devices and install white noise generators near 3D printing devices. If they want to reverse engineer, they can be initially in line at Best Buy, shopping for microphones and video cameras.

Machine operators who want to reverse engineer digital blueprints locked up by DRM may take this technique to new levels, via sensitive devices to record the sounds, vibrations, and images of operating 3D printing devices. If the machine operator does not care of IP rights and is operating away of control, those signals can be utilized to reverse engineer the digital blueprint for the part without regard to whether the part 3D printed of the reverse engineered blueprint infringes any IP rights. If the machine owner does respect IP rights or is operating openly, the reverse engineered digital blueprint can most likely be tweaked to avoid the part createer’s IP. In either case, the machine owner makes an end run around DRM and IP rights. Touchdown! The moral of the story: no digital blueprint is secure if you only listen carefully adequate.

Featured image: ZDNet

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