The Gold Rush for 3D Printing Patents
(CNBC) During the last decade, the US Patent and Trademark Office received more than 6,800 patent applications related to 3D printing. Since 2007, about 680 patents a year have been filed—39.6 percent more than 2002, when 487 patents were filed. Since 2003, the office has granted 3,500 patents related to 3D printing.
“Additive manufacturing technology permits production of extraordinarily accurate duplicates of objects that are the subject of IP protections,” said Teresa Rea, acting director of the Patent and Trademark Office, which is part of the Commerce Department.
A unique phenomenon of 3D printing is the “perceived right of public access to this technology,” said Terry Wohlers, coauthor of a recent report from consulting firm Wohlers Associates. Some groups advocate that 3D programs and software should be “open source” and available to all users for the sake of innovation.
Its growing affordability has made the technology accessible to smaller businesses, artists and consumers. Several retailers have unveiled sections dedicated to 3D printing, including Amazon, Staples and, most recently, UPS.
“The entry barrier for infringers is modest, especially as technology improves and prices fall,” said Rea. “As a result, we should anticipate that this will be a growing challenge for right holders and law enforcement.”