Should “digital instructions for physical products” be protected by US copyright laws

An article in the Wall Street Journal (August 12, 2015″ titled “Digital Patent cases Faces Skeptics”, describes a current appeals court hearing involving ClearCorrect, a company that used digital data from Pakistan to manufacture custom orthodontic devices, thus violating the patents held by Align technology. The question is whether the instructions are equivalent to the devices themselves and thus whether the digital receipt of information should be blocked. This case is of interest as companies that plan to use 3D printing for manufacturing could well have digital instructions developed anywhere else in the world, thus only offering printing services locally. Should digital instructions be held equivalent to the consequent printed objects ? What if the instructions are sold to customers who could then print it themselves, how should the associated intellectual property be protected ? Should the instructions be treated as software or as services or as manufactured goods ?

About aviyer2010

Professor
This entry was posted in Global Contexts, intellectual property, Liability, manufacturer, Service Operations, Supply Chain Issues and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Should “digital instructions for physical products” be protected by US copyright laws

  1. Kyle Harshbarger says:

    I think a good way to handle this is to treat digital instructions like this as art. This would allow 3D printing data to be treated like digital music. Pirates will exist, but it allows for a marketplace like iTunes for legal distribution.

    The question then becomes is the code itself the art or is the manufacturing done by the code the art. I think it is just the code. There is too much variation in 3D printing (color, consistency, material, process type) for the manufacturing to be protected as the art of the code designer. This would mean if I legally acquire the code from someone, I can produce as much of it as I want.

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