With the rapid advancement of additive manufacturing technologies, colloquially known as 3D printing, current US patent law will encounter a new set of challenges that it is inadequately equipped to resolve. Unlike copyright owners, patent owners lack robust protection for computer-aided design (CAD) files, which facilitate the 3D printing of an object, because of the dispersed nature of infringement and the knowledge requirements for indirect patent infringement. One potential solution is allowing liability for selling or offering to sell the CAD file itself. If one embraces this or other forms of digital patent infringement, then the appropriate remedy becomes important. This chapter addresses how US patent law would address issues of injunctive relief and compensatory damages in the context of digital patent infringement.
Timothy R. Holbrook
Additive manufacturing techniques, colloquially known as 3D printing, will increasingly place pressure on the world’s patent systems in a manner akin to the challenges the copyright systems faced due to digital files. Unlike copyright, digital files themselves do not, under present patent law, constitute the patented invention itself. Under current US law, there should be infringement based on the digital files themselves – so-called digital infringement – if someone sells or offers to sell the file that will ‘print’ the patented invention. Additionally, some commentators have called for mechanisms to protect patent holders directly by permitting claims that are specific to digital files. While such digital infringement protects patent owners, it also risks considerable extraterritorial reach for US patents in terms of liability and damages. The chapter explores this dynamic and offers possible mechanisms for addressing these concerns.