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Thomas Margoni

Design rights protect the appearance of products, an expression that includes contours, lines and colours applied to or incorporated in material objects. It seems plausible that a right protecting the shape of things matters when the focus of analysis is 3D printing, that is to say a set of technologies that promise to replicate everyday objects and to ‘manufacture (almost) anything’, a promise that, if kept, might lead to a new industrial revolution. Nevertheless, like any technical, social or economic innovation, also the phenomenon of 3D printing must be tested against the applicable legal framework, which, in turn, has the task of balancing technological innovation and competition with the protection of creativity and investments: two often opposing sets of values. In the present chapter the role played by design rights in this balancing exercise will be examined in respect to the UK and EU legal systems.