Three dimensional printing (3D PRINTING), a recent very popular system, is the creation process of a three dimensional object by printing any virtually designed shape into a solid form. The devices making this process possible are called three dimensional printers. This three dimensional printing system has been reached via a community Project named RepRap (Replicating Rapid Prototyper)1
Printing can be processed by using a variety of raw materials such as multi or mono coloured plastic, metal, ceramic, and beeswax. The operation principle of the most widely used three dimensional printers is based on the virtual division of a three dimensional object that is prepared in computer environment into layers and each layer is printed on top of each other by pouring the melted raw material.
Many product designs such as clothing, accessories, a large variety of household and kitchen goods, tools and materials to be used in many different areas, games and toys, statuettes, medical organ models, weapons, mechanical devices, musical instruments, etc. can be printed with the 3D printer system by ordinary users.
Since 3 dimensional design in computer environment requires experience, many 3D printer users download into their computers and use the designs prepared by others via file-sharing platforms/websites (such as Shapeways with over 1 million product/design varieties and Thingiverse with over 150.000 designs), some of which require fees and some don't.
Even though the system, which is still not cheap and easy to use, has been popularized among average users today, the system is yet expected to develop further and be subject to common usage. It will only then be possible for many users to create original designs both for personal use and commercial use and to reach distinctive methods/solutions. Furthermore, the system will enable children to design the toys they dream of in the computer environment and produce them by means of 3D printers and even to expand their imagination by overtaking clichés.
However, allowing products, which may pose danger for society, such as weapons, use of which is subject to license/permit/control, to be 3D designed, printed and used without being identified by a metal detector, constitute the most criticized and unsafe side of this system. This is why Senator Chuck Schumer of the USA has called for a draft law to be introduced for the ban of the weapons, produced by 3 dimensional printing technologies. 2
On the other hand, if this system is used for the purpose of copying the existing objects, rather than for original and creative purposes, it is considered that such use will cause, and, in fact, has already started to cause big problems and infringement of rights in terms of distinctive objects, which serve a function or stand out with their visual qualities, within the framework of Intellectual Property Law, including Trademarks, Patents, Designs, Utility Models and Copyrights.
With this system, for instance, it is likely to reproduce identical copies of two or three dimensional cartoon, movie and game characters, logos, unique packaging visuals and designs, which are subject to intellectual property rights.
Or, 3D printing of popular board games designs such as Monopoly, Taboo, Settlers of Catan, by means of 3 dimensional printers will cause design and/or copyright infringement.
Lastly, if Haberman patent with the subject of "baby feeding bottle designed for babies with sucking problems" or "Crocs shoe designs" which are subject to patent protection in the US are reproduced by three dimensional printing method, this will cause infringement of patent rights, since the functional qualities, included in the patent's subject, of such objects will also be reproduced. One can further exemplify and vary similar cases.
Not everything is subject to copyright or any other intellectual property protection, not every digital object is subject to protection. Therefore, not every creation of an object by three dimensional printing method will infringe an IP right. In other words, it should first be examined whether or not the object created by three dimensional printing method is subject to protection of IP rights.
Then the usage of the object created by three dimensional printing method should be examined. At this point, defense of fair use, which is a unique concept to the Copyrights Law in the US, the country where the subject is debated the most, may be regarded as a legal tradition which draws the borderline of the IP rights. In our legislation, we have regulations parallel to this tradition. For example, according to Article 30 et seq. and 80 of the Law on Intellectual Property and Artistic Works, "personal use and reproduction without any profit motive; use and reproduction for the purposes of public order, educational and instructional, scientific studies, news or information purposes" do not constitute an infringement of rights.
Except for the use within the meaning of "fair use"; it is likely that the design and production, display, sale, share via the internet or promotion of the products created by 3D printing system, subject to third parties access, may be detrimental to and constitute infringement of the IP rights protected by laws.
Tod Blatt has recently made an identical copy of a cube design which was used as part of the space ship used in the motion picture named "SUPER 8" and uploaded its 3D design to Shapeways, a 3D printing file-sharing site. Soon after that, upon a cease and desist letter received by the Paramount Pictures, which is the copyright owner of the motion picture and all designs and characters in the film, Tod Blatt removed this sharing from the site. This is because, on the basis of a license agreement granted by Paramount pictures to another firm, products containing this special cube design will soon be put into market by the licensee firm3.
Similar cases may apply to decorative objects used in many science fiction films such as the time machine design in the Back to the Future series; energy weapon in Star Trek movie or laser gun/sword in Star Wars movie.
With the 3D printing method becoming more easily accessible, more widespread and cheaper, it will be very likely that provisions of the Law on Intellectual and Artistic Works No. 5846, the Decree Law No. 556 Pertaining to the Protection of Trademarks, The Decree Law No. 554 Pertaining to the Protection of Industrial Designs and the Decree Law No 551 Pertaining to the Protection of Patent Rights and Utility Model Rights will be infringed and yet we will soon see how provisions corresponding to "fair use" notion in the US Copyright laws will be implemented in our legal system and in what direction courts will rule.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.