3D Printed Sports Logos: Illegal?

By on June 19th, 2013 in Ideas

Tags: ,

Boston, Massachusetts is the original home of ZCorp, now owned by 3D Systems. It’s also the home of the Boston Bruins NHL hockey club, currently battling the Chicago Blackhawks for the championship Stanley Cup. 
In 2011 the Bruins won the cup and the folks (or perhaps fans) at ZCorp printed out the Bruins official logo above. Since that time we’ve seen multiple sports logos developed specifically for 3D printing. Normally these logos are 2D items, so it takes some creativity to convert them into 3D structures. 
On Thingiverse we found this Pittsburgh Penguins logo and model for a Winnipeg Jets Galaxy S4 Phone Case. Both are downloadable and there are many more sports-logoed items available. 
This is terrific for sports fans, but is it entirely legal? While the Bruins logo above seems to have been 3D printed for internal use by ZCorp, the downloadable items on Thingiverse are publicly available. 
Sports teams protect their logos diligently, as placing them on salable merchandise is a major source of income. Counterfeited jersey sales are frequently shut down, sometimes by police action. 
But what happens if the merchandise is distributed for free? And 3D printed? We strongly suspect the Thingiverse items do not have licenses from the respective owners. Will the owners be concerned if their logo is placed on objects and freely distributed as a printable 3D model? While no money changes hands during a Thingiverse download, there could be issues in the future when license owners see a dent in their profits because free printable equivalents replace salable items.

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!