Printables has been forced to de-list dozens of 3D models referencing “Honda”.
The rapidly-growing 3D model repository operated by Prusa Research was home to plenty of user-created 3D models for use with Honda automobiles and other products.
These items would be compatible replacements, add-ons, or simply items creators thought might be useful to others.
Printables contributors began posting news of “missing” uploads and before long it was realized that all of them somehow or other referenced Honda. Contributor “toneless” wrote:
“It’s quite disappointing to see my first ever published print deleted as well.
I see no reason or explanation on what was wrong with it and there was no comment except your “print was deleted by administrator”.
I’d also like an explanation, please. Also, admins should consider spending a moment writing an explanation as users do take a lot of time to publish their prints and this behaviour is ungrateful to say the least.
P.s It also happens that my upload was an automotive part as well (a rubber grommet for a specific application).”
Many similar posts appeared, but eventually a spokesperson for Prusa Research replied, providing a detailed and emotional explanation. Mikolas Zuza wrote:
“This is the first time we were threatened by lawyers of such a big company. They sent us a huge legal document covering every single model they want to be deleted, with an annoying lawyer talk explanation of how they hold the IP and patents even to stuff without a honda logo (e.g. the shape and dimensions of a washer fluid cap).
There was a very tight deadline within which we could respond. We did the only thing we could, without getting into a huge law fight with Honda, we complied.
I want to apologize to everyone who was affected by this and got a model taken down. We’re now trying to reach Honda directly to bring these models back. These models are not permanently deleted, but “hidden”, we have the ability to bring them back. I suspect Honda might not even be aware this is happening, just a big law company doing “something” so they can bill the hours.”
Evidently the time crunch permitted Prusa Research to only perform a quick and dirty takedown, which seems to have hidden every submission that mentions the word “Honda”. This included many items that had nothing to do with “Honda” the car company, as they merely mentioned “Honda” somewhere in the listing. This is entirely unfair.
Presumably these could be restored by the submitters by changing the text so that the word “Honda” does not appear. For example, “Rubber Grommet for Japanese H-Car” might be acceptable. If Honda has patented the dimensions of washer fluid caps, even that might not be acceptable to Honda. However, I am wondering how Honda might perform such a detailed inspection of thousands of 3D models to see if any of them happen to match the dimensions of any of their parts. That would be a feat itself.
As annoying as this is, it is entirely legal for Honda to do so. They created object designs and therefore own that design.
The intellectual property laws do tend to force companies to take action. The story is that if a company does not actively defend their IP, then it might become de facto “open”. Thus, some companies interpret this as a compulsion to take severe action on any detection of anything close to what they own. Disney is another company using that approach.
The actions are particularly annoying for new parts designed to work with Honda equipment that will never be offered by Honda.
Some companies choose to be not so aggressive, as it does tend to piss off customers. Contributor Morrone wrote:
“I going to assume that, like my model, that no reasonable person could be confused by these descriptions into thinking that we are claiming that they are products produced by Honda. In my case, it was a model that fits a particular spot in a particular model of Honda vehicle. Honestly, this is making me less likely to purchase a Honda again in the future.”
Presumably Honda believes their aggressive actions will be a net positive for the company: lost sales from 3D print enthusiasts will be less than lost parts and accessory sales.
That’s a questionable call, as social media can quickly ramp up negative feelings for any company. Disney gets away with it because there is only one Disney; if you want Mickey, you must go to them. They don’t lose much if they are aggressive.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of alternative vehicle options aside from Honda. Also, Honda is far behind in electrification, so they’ll need every sale they can get in the near future.
Bad move by Honda.