As businesses build optimal structures that weren’t previously possible, they might be able to obtain patent protection for them – in addition to intellectual property (IP) being generated in relation to new 3D-printing equipment, it is equally important for businesses to protect any IP generated by using it.
With the technology becoming more useful, IP protection will have an increasingly important function in enabling businesses to commercialise their R&D investment. However, it is important for businesses to be aware that exploiting the advantages of AM creates challenges when it comes to deciding how best to protect IP.
Construction businesses are well-placed to take advantage of the benefits of AM, as much of the information necessary to print an item already exists in a digital format, due to the widespread use of CAD software. The information stored on these CAD files can readily be shared on file-sharing platforms, and then reprinted onsite by anyone with access to a suitable 3D printer.
We predict that without preventative action, designers of 3D-printed structures may encounter problems regarding illegal file sharing of their CAD designs, in a similar way to the music industry in the early 2000s. In order to mitigate this, designers should be aware that patent protection for their novel structures could cover the electronic 3D printing design file.