It’s back to Business Monday and I am really fired up with this article about 3D print IP loss. 3D print IP loss is a topic we are interested in, but this is also all about bad misinformation. The idea is that they are claiming that businesses are set to lose more than $100 billion by 2018 thanks to 3D printing.
First off, there is nobody making money in 3D printing for that to even become somewhere close to accurate. While there are many industries where 3D printing is legitimately being used in and is a part of someone’s process. Certainly, there are also companies like 3D Systems, and Stratsys, and all those people that are basing their entire living on the 3D printing industry, still the idea that there is $100 billion of business by other companies which are not in the 3D printing industry that is going to be taken away by the 3D printing industry is complete garbage. It is just ridiculous. You can combine this article that is all about the $100 billion losses, with the article on sneaker designers busting counterfeiters and knock offs by using 3D printing to help do that.
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Debunking the 3D Print IP Loss Hype
In Orlando, Florida, there was recently a conference of the International Trademark Association that touches a bit on 3D print IP loss. I want to emphasize that this is the Trademark Association, so we are talking about people’s names and logos. You are not losing money to something, and you are not 3D printing a hat with the logos that are already on. You are 3D printing something that doesn’t exist with the logo on it or you would just go buy it. I would just spend that effort doing it. You can do it and just do it for yourself. It’s not that you are going to sell it to others and deprive major league baseball off their revenues and royalties on that.
Critical Points about 3D Print IP Loss
It brings up a few critical points on 3D print IP loss. First is the trademark and licensing associations are really backwards about 3D printing to begin with. We did some contact about that and we talked about licensing the Pantone color system. We talked about people on licensing sports logos, like Tom Simon with Source 3. It was really backwards. It was so difficult to get them to understand and not assess this ridiculous minimum guarantee on an industry that doesn’t even have any sales yet. They just wanted to charge outrageous amounts of money for the licensing minimums. In a way, they get what they deserve if there is stuff there because they aren’t making it accessible in a way in which this is print on demand. If it’s print on demand, I am not putting into inventory this stuff and I’m not sitting on it. Who knows if your logo is even valuable? The licensing system is not set for 3D printing, so they need to fix that and fix that first.
It really shows a lack of understanding on what 3D printing is by the trademark community where they wouldn’t be hyping this up. The trademark community is saying that people are counterfeiting Nike shoes all the time. There are billions and billions of dollars in businesses that counterfeit Nike shoes. When you counterfeit that swoosh on the side of their sneakers, that shape is trademark. That is one interesting example of where that company is associated with that visual mark. It is not 3 dimensional, it is 2 dimensional. It is considered to be 2 dimensional by the trademark laws.
But if you are smart enough to know that it is not a Nike Form Factor, and if are in the industry and you really care about whether you are getting a superstar versions of the Nike shoes, you care enough to know that you have the right shape and not some knockoff. Women who buy purses who buy the $40 ones, know that they are knockoffs. You are not stupid and you know that you are buying a fake. The big brands of the world are not all the worried about people buying a $40 bag on the streets of New York and that is taking away a lot of sales for them. The person who is buying that $40 bag is not going to spend $400 on that bag in the department store – ever.
What happens is that you have created this even bigger cache or bigger ideal of being able to own an actual $400 one, because there are knockoffs out there. It increases your brand equity and it doesn’t take away from it. The fashion industry knows that and they play on that. The fashion industry is the biggest as it has a $6 billion industry of knockoffs. $6 billion of fake fashion goes around and 40% of that according to the Co Designs article is sneakers. I like how the sneaker industry is looking to 3D printing to 3D print identification into each shoe that they manufacture as a means to prove what is original from fake.
We have talked about this before on embedding this smart chips and smart tags within 3D printed items so that you would know whether or not they were printed by us or printed by some fake one. The reality is that they have done this and this exists. They 3D print a smart tag which they embed in their shoes. I see 3D printing as a solution on how to help stem a lot of the losses that the shoe industry is experiencing.
To bring us back to this original article that set me off which talks of IP losses to top $100 billion in 2018 as a result of 3D printing, I just feel like this is not great journalism. They are missing the point. They are saying that anybody can just take a product, scan it, and then sell massive exact copies on eBay, and could damage a company’s reputation and take away the profits from the company, resulting in 3D print IP loss.
The reality is this is a writer who is writing about the 3D printing industry a lot, and for that person to write that the majority of products out there on the market today could be copied in a dead-knot kind of knockoff sense with 3D printing technology today, it’s just not true. It is not true in the sense of why would you do that? 3D printing costs so much more to run. It’s not cost effective. Why would you even bother to do that? It doesn’t make any sense today. Maybe in 2018 if some miracle will happen and these printers would be lightning fast, it would make sense. But that is a big assumption between today and 2018. They are also making it overly simplistic not only in terms of copying a product, but they were also copying things that are meant to be FFF 3D printed. These were products that were meant to be printed that way. This reminds me of a previous podcast we did about 3D print IP loss on Thingiverse.
The majority of products in the market are not meant to be 3D printed, and the majority of 3D printers out there in people’s hands that could potentially do this are printing one material at a time and in one color. There are not a whole lot of multi colored 3D printers out there in the hands of individuals and small businesses who could actually copy a typical product and make it look like the original in color, material, finish, and everything. We believe that there are very good consumer end-use products that can be designed to be 3D printed with today’s technology. That is true, but that has not yet been done very much yet.
I just don’t see it happening. I think that more of the problem is that if in the future you are successful with 3D print design, some factory would knock it off in traditional manufacturing, if you didn’t design it to be 3D printed only. It gains popular status as a 3D printed item, and then it gets knocked off in traditional manufacturing. I can see it go that way, but I really don’t see it going the other way. That doesn’t make any sense. The 3D printing industry is wrought with slippery slope intellectual property concerns and the laws need to catch up with it. It is going to take legal battles at courts at some point with something that does enough damage to some company that feels that they have been wronged in order to fix that. There are all sorts of lobbying at Congress to make them aware and understand about 3D printing and 3D print IP loss.
Fan Art Issue
The only legitimate concern to me that copyright and trademark holders have about 3D print IP loss is the idea of fan art. Doing things like that or putting your favorite Disney character and putting that on whatever it is that you design, would obviously make that a concern. Anyone who is in there that is doing that in a fan art sense is not there to be selling it, because they know better. If they got the skills to go and create something of their own that has a representation of that Disney character or Marvel character or whatever. If they have the skills to be able to pull that off, then that is good for them. If they are doing it for themselves, no one is going to think of that as a concern because no one will ever know. You can’t have an issue with it unless somebody starts selling it. You shouldn’t have an issue with it. It just creates bigger value for the things. It would be cooler if there is a bigger fan base. It makes an intellectual property even more valuable.
Impossible Content on Article
This article continued on saying that it is so easy now to scan something and print it in minutes. Really, just in minutes? How much have you really done? How much scanning have you done? There is a lot of clean up you need to do on these things. The idea that the scanners are good is not close to good enough. The one that we have seen in the market is not even close to it yet. It is a commercial grade scanner. It is not a household type scanner, but it is getting better all the time. This is not to be meant to be negative on our industry, not at all.
To me, this article just raised a crying wolf alarm bells or something that says if this is a real problem. They are saying that a lot of companies are going to file repositories which have the potential of becoming the Pirate Bay of the 3D printing world. None of the repositories that I am aware of are actually trying to do that. They are all trying to go for good quality files. It is not trying to be like you have to go and search Google for a torrent to download some pirated copy. You don’t. You go there to get whatever kind of files you want to get. There are rules for how they are downloaded and distributed. If you violated those rules then that is a problem, but the sites themselves are not violating those rules. The people in charge of those sites have no intention to violate intellectual property. In fact, they shy away from it.
I can get some bigger problem with the value of file repositories. The bigger question is who the file repository is serving. Right now, they are not serving the designers. So if you are not serving the designers, the only people that you get in there are frauds. The people in there are putting in repurposed designs from somewhere else, or it is so immature that it has no value. It is not professional content. It is like YouTube compared to Netflix. If the value of it doesn’t increase, and if you do not increase the possibility to make money in there, you will never gain that level of designer quality acquired to make it to a legitimate file repository and to make it worth shopping in which is the key.
You cannot attract someone who cannot do it themselves. You are doing nothing; you are just a file house. It is where we see some of the files that are trying to do things that are going to make their particular site more valuable to potential users. There are lots of things going on where there are differences of trying to becoming more relevant as we go forward in this industry. Pinshape has actually gone under and I don’t see them going up any time soon under their new management. It is still the same site. It is the problem and no one is consulting the right people to turn it into a real site and a real place to shop. It is going to continue to be in the fringes of amateur sphere. There is just so much noise in these sites that it is hard for the good quality files and professionally created files to see the light of day, and it’s almost impossible to make money doing it.
We really feel for you because like you, we don’t feel that there is a place for us. We don’t feel that there is a site for us, and a place in which it is valuing what we have to contribute to as designers. It is attracting the marketing dollars and all the spend in getting to attract consumers. 86% of consumers are women with money. Until they are going to their sites to buy things, there is no market for counterfeits. This is another place and the last point at which I disagree with the article written about the 3D print IP loss and supposed $100 billion in losses in 2018, which I think this is completely garbage. They say that one solution they suggest is for the 3D printing industry to erase changes to the music industry eventually and drop prices to a point where piracy becomes less attractive to those that would pirate.
The Reality of 3D Print IP Loss and IP Loss in General
First of all, I don’t think enough people out there are really making money in pirating 3D printable files. This is an attractive industry for them, But I also disagree with the premise that just dropping prices of professional content is going to be the solution either. The reality is that in the music industry, pretty much everybody in the United States and around the world listens to music already and had a way to listen to music. As iPods came to be, everybody had ways to listen to it on the go. Even before that, they were burning their own CDs and making their own mix tapes.
Everybody listens to music, but everybody does not 3D print files nor does everybody buy 3D printed products. So until there is a market of people that do the very idea that dropping prices is the way to help solve the problem to make the market grow, is just absolute garbage. We are still at the playing the piano stage. This one really bugged me. Start raising the prices so that you know the high level branded items and the knockoffs, because the knockoffs will be cheap. That is where the fashion industry had done it and combated that. You can then clearly identify a good and original work from a knockoff by that. People are going to get what they pay for if they purchase a cheap knockoff.
If you are selling something like some of those 3D printed jewelry pieces that are a couple of hundred dollars per piece, it is awesome and a beautiful stuff. If somebody were to knock that off and print it on plastic on an FFF 3D printer and sell it cheap, it is going to be like teen jewelry or teen kid play clothes jewelry. It is not going to be any kind of quality. I don’t think anyone is going to get upset with it either. You have to be able to show that there is a real loss in your business. If there is no business, there can’t be losses. The idea that this is some fire alarm going off in and we are all going to go in court is ridiculous.
Final Thoughts on the 3D Print IP Loss Hype
We talk about IP here and we have been called alarmist already about it, but the reality is we just raised a concern to a standpoint of you need to put systems in place. You need to be prepared for that and 3D print IP loss. You need to do the kind of the things that Tom Simon is doing, and make it easier to happen. Make it accessible for these items to happen. But also control them. Now, I don’t have to recreate the Red Socks logo if I was able to find it there. I paid for it legitimately so I can use it. That saves me time and energy. Of course I would do that. That is where the systems have to change in recommendation of that. But 2028 maybe, is something that I really don’t know. It is way out there.
This is not our typical Back to Business Monday kind of a topic. It is just we like to debunk some of the things that were mentioned in some recent stories. Just get to know our opinion because we have been very clear today.
Let’s just agree to disagree respectfully on 3D print IP loss, and we appreciate it.
- 3D Printing Industry: IP losses to top $100 billion in 2018
- Co Design: How Sneaker Designers are Busting Knock Offs with Bitcoin Tech
- Tom Simon and Source 3 – 3D Print Brand Licensing
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