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3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing

Protecting innovations in a 3D printed world

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, turns a 3D digital model created on a computer or with a 3D scanner into a physical object, allowing users to make almost anything. Unlike traditional manufacturing, which typically uses subtractive processes, such as cutting, drilling, milling, or grinding, 3D printing is an additive process that fuses materials, layer on layer, with heat, chemicals, light, electron beams, or adhesives. Many different and increasingly complex technologies fall under the umbrella of 3D printing and additive manufacturing. 3D printing is a disruptive technology with far-reaching implications for manufacturers, consumers, and intellectual property owners. While 3D printing technology enables manufacturers to make complex designs, rapid prototypes, and final parts in fundamentally different ways, it also allows almost anyone to re-create any existing product design and make, use, or distribute it without permission from the original creator. Due to the very nature of additive manufacturing, users and makers of 3D printers will encounter emerging issues involving their own patents, trademarks, trade dress, trade secrets, and copyrights, and those of others. Almost anyone who owns rights in product designs may be affected by 3D printers. The Gartner Group predicts that “by 2018, 3D printing will result in the loss of at least $100 billion per year in intellectual property globally.” IBM predicts that most companies will not be ready for it.

Finnegan is well equipped with the skills and experience to help companies prepare for the effects of 3D printing, by protecting and respecting IP rights. Additive manufacturing cuts across virtually all technologies and all types of IP. The multidisciplinary nature of 3D printing demands professionals with technological breadth, as well as mastery of the interplay between this technology and the IP laws. In addition to Finnegan’s legal experience in the complex field of IP, our attorneys have expertise in a wide array of technologies, including electrical and computer, materials science, industrial manufacturing, mechanical engineering, software, biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics, the Internet, and other related fields. Nearly 80 of our professionals hold doctoral degrees and nearly 100 have Master of Science degrees in these highly complex disciplines. Many have also previously had successful careers as engineers, research scientists, patent examiners, and in-house counsel.

This breadth and depth uniquely positions us to help our clients navigate the complex technical and legal issues of 3D printing. Because of our ability to combine science and legal analysis, we can provide guidance that ultimately results in strong, defensible, and enforceable IP, and effective strategies for defending and enforcing it.

Promoting investment on the cutting edge of additive manufacturing

Finnegan understands the potentially disruptive nature of 3D printing, the need of companies to determine how this technology may affect them, the demands of investors and shareholders to generate value, and the importance of securing early and meaningful IP protection. We have advised 3D printer makers, digital design exchanges, materials companies, and government policymakers. From educating clients on the effects of 3D printing technologies to developing tailored IP strategies, we provide a full range of services to our clients.

  • Advising on how 3D printing and additive manufacturing can affect your company
  • Advice on the state of the art, system selection and adoption, and technology mapping
  • Developing and executing strategies to ensure strong utility and design patents, and a robust IP portfolio
  • Analyzing competitors’ IP to avoid infringement and identify weaknesses in their portfolios, including strategic patent mapping and mining
  • Conducting prior art searches and providing freedom to operate and patent validity opinions
  • Preparing and negotiating licenses and other transactions to commercialize IP rights
  • Preparing collaboration, license, and 3D printing ecosystem agreements
  • Developing winning litigation strategies to enforce 3D printing IP and defend claims of IP infringement
  • Counseling on R&D options that minimize IP obstacles
  • Providing due diligence, advice, and industry, market, and competitive research related to mergers, acquisitions, investment targets, barriers to entry, and technology niches
  • Facilitating connections to industry players and products in the machines and materials space
  • Counseling on business-related matters, including antitrust and competition issues
  • Providing trademark prosecution and counseling services
  • Protecting copyrights in 3D printing-related software and digital blueprints
  • Formulating strategies for alternative protection for IP under pressure from 3D printing
  • Advising on the interplay between 3D printing and the U.S. export control laws  
Vast experience in related disciplines

Finnegan attorneys have secured, analyzed, commercialized, enforced, and/or defended the IP assets of clients in virtually every technology area associated with 3D printing:

  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Bioengineering and biomedical devices
  • Chemical engineering
  • Electrical-mechanical systems
  • Fashion
  • Industrial manufacturing
  • Internet
  • Machine technology
  • Materials
  • Nanotechnology
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Robotics
  • Semiconductors
  • Software
  • Textiles and wearable technology