Brand owners of physical and digital products have traditionally faced different challenges when combating counterfeiting. But this might change soon with 3D printing, one of the technologies that will undoubtedly revolutionize our lives.
Aided by computers and special software, these printers are able to produce durable goods by building successive layers of the product using powder, molten plastic, or metals. While 3D printers have been around for quite some time, they become affordable to end consumers and may soon become part of our everyday life. It is small wonder that 3D printing is part of the so-called Third Industrial Revolution which enables millions of consumers to produce their own goods, energy and information.
How does this relate to counterfeits?
The answer is quite simple. What should stop consumers from printing branded shoes, spare parts, action figures, or jewelry? Or transferring protected designs to their own products – for example, printing their own shoes with red bottom heels?
3D printers are becoming a big challenge for large companies and patent owners, and their understanding of top-down economics of mass production physical goods.The impact of this technology on Intellectual Rights and anti-counterfeiting is huge, as 3D printing may undermine the entire trademark registration and protection system of manufactured goods.
Much like what the digital industry had to face over past years as software, music and film was shared and downloaded for free over the internet, online libraries are springing up where people can share object files for 3D printing. One can only imagine how these libraries will grow once more consumers own 3D printing devices. A 3D scanner can digitalize any physical object, making it possible to produce copies from the same object over and over again. In the same way, the file which contains the digitalized info of that object, can be made accessible to the millions of producing consumers out there.
Physical brand owners will have to find additional ways and new business models to protect their IPR and design patents and generate revenues from them. Possibly brand owners in the future will assume the role of licensors, brand builders, and designers of 3D printing blueprints, rather than that of manufacturers. Time will tell.
In the meantime, it is easy to imagine how 3D printing will open up a whole new branch in Brand Protection and Anti-Counterfeiting. And it will be necessary to combine experience from different fields - such as Authentication solutions and Online Brand Protection - to meet this new challenge.
Contact us for more information about how 3D printing may affect your business.