SmartIP for lotsize „ONE“
For anyone following recent discussions in production technology circles, a distant rumor has become the talk of the town. The industrialised world could be heading for a disruptive paradigm shift, as 3D printing is changing the way we look at designing and make things. Advances in additive manufacturing, not only in plastics and composites, but also in metallic and composites, open up horizons in structures that appeared unattainable just a few years ago, leading to substantial savings in material, and thus, weight. Finally, design can truly follow function, at lot sizes of, in the extreme, one. No minimum quantities required, if circumstances are right.
Just as the principles of intellectual, or as they are widely called, industrial property rights developed with the industrialisation and the change from artisan production to highly segmented production line manufacturing, the ways we think and plan IP portfolio strategies will have to change and develop with the changes from classic mass to additive manufacturing as well. Patent law, with all its extensive publication and examination deadlines, was designed for technology cycles that were substantially longer than they are today, which applies in particular to additive manufacturing, which appears to make technology leaps every year in process, material and volume per time. There is no guaranty that what appears to be state of the art today, will be used at all anymore in three years time.
Considering all of the above, a smart IP approach for 3D printing technology will have to have multiple layers, favouring quickly obtainable IP rights, such as design registrations, design patents and utility models or registered patents where available, and reserving time consuming patent rights to platform technologies that promise long term availability and substantial scope of protection. The magic is in the mix. The correct type of rights, at the right time, at the right place, and with a scope of protection that reflects the specific requirements of the applicant. One size doesn’t fit all. Certainly not for an evolving technology such as 3D printing.
Proper planning of such a SmartIP portfolio requires knowledge of the kind of rights that are available in target markets, so that the IP portfolio can be leveraged to the max, be it by keeping competitors or counterfeiters at bay, be it by licensing out technology to enhance revenue streams.
Time is moving fast in 3D printing. Your IP portfolio has to move with it.