Dec 20, 2017 | By Tess

Michael Weinberg, Shapeways’ IP and General Council, is calling on the 3D printing community to sign a petition he has drafted to amend a rule renewed by the US Patent and Trademark Office. The rule, which is meant to allow people to unlock or “jailbreak” a 3D printer to use nonproprietary filament, currently contains an exemption which could effectively override the rule.

The rule, which is generally seen as a positive thing in the 3D printing industry—as it enables users more freedom with their 3D printing materials—was first put in place in 2015. Now, Weinberg believes what it stands for could be at risk because of semantics.

In short, the exemption states that while users can hack a 3D printer to use different materials, it will not be allowed if the 3D printer produces any parts or products for commercial purposes. At face value this exemption seems reasonable, and the rule is supposedly in place to protect certain industries—such as the aerospace and medical sectors—from subpar 3D printed parts and materials.

Still, because of the way the exemption is written, Weinberg believes that the exemption could pose a danger to the freedom of the 3D printing community.

It reads: “The exemption shall not extend to any computer program on a 3D printer that produces goods or materials for use in commerce the physical production of which is subject to legal or regulatory oversight…”

Michael Weinberg, IP & General Council at Shapeways

If you think about it, any 3D printer could be used to produce commercial parts that are subjected to regulatory oversight, such as airplane parts or medical devices. This broad reading of the rule could exclude all 3D printers from the jailbreak allowance.

Weinberg writes on his blog: “A charitable reading of the exception suggests that it was motivated by a fear that people might unlock their 3D printer, use third party (and sub-standard) material in their printer, create something highly regulated like an airplane part or medical implant, and then have that part fail because no one realized that it failed to meet the standards.”

“Unfortunately, the language that the Copyright Office chose to address this concern was so broad as to basically include every 3D printer,” he continues. “Specifically, it said it did not apply to a printer that ‘produces goods or materials for use in commerce the physical production of which is subject to legal or regulatory oversight.’ Needless to say, this is pretty broad.”

In his petition, Weinberg is appealing to the Copyright Office to amend the rule and remove the aforementioned clause for a number of reasons. The first, and most obvious, is to remove any potential block to people using the 3D printing materials they want.

The second reason to remove the exception, explains Weinberg, is because the concern raised through it (that critical parts will be made from substandard materials) is actually unfounded. He says, “These concerns were originally raised by Stratasys and then further discussed by the Copyright Office. However, they do not appear to have been actually documented anywhere.”

Finally, the petition outlines that even if the concern brought up is valid, the Copyright Office is not the body to address those risks, namely because they are not tasked with medical device safety or aerospace part qualification.

“Ultimately my petition asks the Copyright Office to focus on the copyright aspects of this decision,” he writes. “To the extent that there is no copyright-related reason to limit the scope of the exemption, the exemption should not be limited. If there are non-copyright-related impacts of the decision, the Copyright Office should let the other parts of the Government worry about those.”

The full petition to amend the Copyright Office 3D printing rule can be found here.



Posted in 3D Printer



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jj wrote at 12/20/2017 11:06:30 PM:

USPTO is not the Copyright Office

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