There's an interesting piece at Intellectual Property Brief by Brianna Ford that looks at the legal scenario involved when copyright, trademark or patent items are illegally reproduced on a personal 3D printer.
We strongly suspect this situation will occur; in fact, it's probably already occurring. Disney-related items are appearing at Thingiverse and they will no doubt be 3D printed by anyone interested in downloading them.
Ford ask the question, "who should Disney sue?" There are several possibilities: The printer owner, the printer operator, the printer manufacturer, the original 3D model designer, the repository from which it was downloaded and perhaps the operator's cat. Her answer:
Whether the design was stolen or created, Disney would likely want to go after the owner of the design library rather than the owner of the 3D printer because shutting down the source of the file will likely hinder future infringement. Only if the owner of the 3D printer were making mass distributions of the doll, would Disney want to sue them because the owner is typically Disney’s customer. Instead, Disney would probably best be advised to sue the owner of the library to cut off the source of the design to other infringers and save legal fees. If the library owner allows infringement on a massive scale like in Napster, a court could hold the library owner liable for the infringement of the owner of the 3D printer.
This makes much sense and is likely what will happen.
Mouse lovers, beware.
Image Credit: Wikimedia