Intellectual Property and Regulation
Edited by Dinusha Mendis, Mark Lemley and Matthew Rimmer
Chapter 9: How 3D printing disrupts trade dress protection and resurrects the need for source and quality assurance
Trademark law faces at least two effects from 3D printing. The technology promises to reduce cost barriers and thus disrupt trade dress protection. Yet the same technology may increase the importance of trademarks’ source function. 3D printing and related technologies such as digital scanning enable almost anyone to copy and produce something, such as the shape of a bottle or a doll, that may also have trade dress protection. Maintaining exclusivity for such protection is difficult, if not impossible. 3D printing thus resurrects the problems of when firms produce essentially the same goods. When consumers face many sources for arguably the same good, the claim that a good, parts, or a digital file comes from a particular source and has quality increases in importance. As such this chapter explains how 3D printing simultaneously challenges trade dress protection and resurrects trademark protection as an indication of source and quality.
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