Patent attorney Bryan J. Vogel provides a reasonably brief overview of the legal aspects beginning to face the 3D printing industry in a post on Bloomberg Law.
Vogel explains in simple terms the differences between patents, trade secrets, trademark and copyright where the legal battles will likely be fought in the future as 3D printing reaches the consumer space.
Once in the consumer space, the value of the industry skyrockets and people, companies and organizations will battle over that value. In the courts.
Vogel also points out two interesting angles that may also occur in upcoming legal fights: anti-trust laws used against patent holders and use of FDA limitations.
We have two comments. First, the post doesn't mention open source principles and approaches that may influence the outcome of 3D printing's legal future. It is possible in the future that significant 3D print technologies and content may be used freely to change the legal outcomes. It's also possible that the temptation of big cash may alter the trajectory of some currently open source companies.
The second comment is regarding jurisdiction. Vogel's description applies to the USA, but the majority of 3D printing takes place outside the USA and this will likely increase over time. The non-US portion of the world is not subject to US legislation, although many countries may have similar laws. The differences in these laws may generate some interesting scenarios in the future.
Via Bloomberg Law