A recent decision in the Federal Court battle between Align Technologies, makers of Invisalign 3D Printed clear braces, and direct competitor Clearcorrect, has established (for now) if digital files, 3D CAD files, are considered “articles” within US Patent law. While this case has raised awareness for an important issue in the 3D Printing industry, it actually will not have as much impact on 3D print file rights and protection as it may first appear. In this WTFFF?! episode Tom and Tracy interview Intellectual Property Attorney Maria Speth, partner in the law firm of Jaburg Wilk, about the Invisalign case, the differences between Patents and Copyrights, and how you can best protect your 3D Print digital files.
Here are some key questions discussed in the podcast, and the answers:
Can you copy a 3D print file without violating Patent or Copyright law?
Non functional objects are protected by Copyrights, and if you copy a 3D Print file without permission you may be violating the file creator’s Copyright.
If someone makes a slight change to your original design file, would that new file no longer be protected by the original Copyright?
No, the new file, called a Derivative, is still protected by the original copyright. For example, our 3D Angel Ornament has the year displayed on one area of the model, and a letters forming an inspirational message in another area. Last year we printed this model with 2014 and the word “PEACE”, This Year we are printing it will 2015 and the word “HARMONY.” Both of these variations, and future ones too are covered by our one Copyright.
How do you obtain a copyright?
Copyrights are automatic. Once you create an original design (in this case in a CAD file) it is copyrighted. You do not need to do anything.
Do you need to register that Copyright?
You do not have to, but if you do not then you only be entitled to recover actual damages potential damages in the event of an infringement. If you register your Copyright the damages you can recover include Statutory damages and attorney’s fees, regardless of how much the actual damages were. You can hire an attorney to assist you with registering your copyright, Maria Speth’s law firm Jaburg | Wilk is a good one to use. Alternatively you can file your own registration online at the US Copyright Office for a very reasonable fee.
What are some best practices for protecting your Copyrighted 3D print files?
You should definitely put a plain language notice that your design is protected by Copyright on any web page, printed material, or other representation of your work, and include your limitations of how it can or can not be used. You should also put the standard Copyright Notice ©, your name (or company name), and the year (2015) on your work.
In the podcast Maria Speth promised to provide information on the “Deposit Requirements” for filing an application for Copyright Registration of a CAD file. Copyright Office Circular 61 describes the deposit material requirements for computer programs (which covers CAD files). Here is a link to that circular and an excerpt from it:
For published or unpublished computer programs, send one copy of identifying portions of the program (first 25 and last 25 pages of source code) reproduced in a form visually perceptible without the aid of a machine or device, either on paper or in microform, together with the page or equivalent unit containing the copyright notice, if any. Online registration is ideal for computer programs not embodied in a CD-ROM. The source code may be uploaded electronically, preferably in PDF format.
We have tested opening up a STL file in a text editing program and found that even small models have over 800 pages of source code. It is easy to print to a PDF file and save just the first and last 25 pages. After receiving this information and updating this blog, we have asked Maria a couple of follow up questions, and when we get more information we will update this blog again.
About Maria Crimi Speth, Partner, Jaburg | Wilk Attorneys
Maria practices in the areas of intellectual property, internet law, and commercial litigation, representing clients throughout the United States. She focuses her practice on assisting businesses in protecting their trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, information technology, and other intellectual property through preventative measures to avoid disputes and through litigation when disputes arise. Phone: 602-248-1000
- Jaburg | Wilk
- ITC Clearcorrect Ruling
- CEO Space International
- Sony v. Universal City Studios
- Berne Convention
- US Copyright Office
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