3D printing, otherwise known as additive manufacturing, is gaining significant attention and offers exciting possibilities that will impact a number of industries. Manufacturers and designers of 3D printers, scanners and digital blueprints, as well as distributors and consumers, all have a hand in the future of 3D printing.
Like other innovative technologies, 3D printing will change the way we work and live, and will yield numerous challenges and opportunities. Husch Blackwell is positioned to play a major role in the 3D printing industry. Our litigation and business attorneys have a wide range of experience and provide counsel on issues that companies in the additive manufacturing field may encounter in the following areas:
Several of these areas are already impacting the 3D printing industry and are discussed in detail below.
Clients benefit from our considerable experience in patent preparation and prosecution, licensing, and protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. We have prosecuted thousands of patents supporting a wide range of technologies and industries. With degrees and industry experience in materials science, computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, biosciences, chemistry and physics, Husch Blackwell’s intellectual property attorneys understand the complex technologies associated with 3D printing, and regularly advise clients on the application of IP issues in the 3D printing environment.
Our IP attorneys are mindful of the future of 3D printing and how it affects our clients’ intellectual property:
Product Safety and Warranty
Husch Blackwell works with clients from product development through production to ensure product safety and regulatory compliance in a complex, international market. In addition to providing strategies to avoid product challenges, we also defend and manage product liability lawsuits across the U.S. and team with international partners to protect our clients on a global scale.
We guide clients through incident investigations; product recalls and other corrective actions; product warnings, warranties and instructions; product testing; and product safety analysis. We advise clients regarding reporting requirements to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and address state, federal and international product safety regulations, as well as industry and consensus standards, such as those from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). As the 3D printing industry expands, our team stands ready to apply its cutting edge industry focus to advise additive manufacturing clients on a broad array of issues that may arise.
3D printing presents tremendous opportunities in the healthcare field. A recent market report published by Transparency Market Research predicts that the market for 3D printing in healthcare will reach $965.5 million by 2019. Categories of 3D printing medical applications include:
While legal questions arising from the application of 3D printing typically focus on FDA regulations and intellectual property issues, in healthcare the predominant question is the degree to which government and commercial payers will reimburse patients for such applications. The vast majority of research on 3D printing medical applications is presently being conducted by higher education institutions due to the lack of reimbursement currently offered by federal programs and commercial payers.
The 3D printing process does not drastically change the traditional contractual relationship between designers and manufacturers. It does, however, reallocate and increase certain risks between the parties. Accordingly, best practices and model terms for manufacturing licenses and agreements will need to be reconsidered to better reflect the issues presented by additive manufacturing. Common manufacturing contract sections which may require unique attention include: intellectual property; product liability; confidentiality; indemnification; covenants and quality standards; representations and warranties; choice of law; insurance; import/export; and tax.
Packaging and Transportation
Many of the changes that 3D printing will bring to global supply chains require specialized packaging, transportation, logistics and warehouse solutions. Husch Blackwell attorneys help clients make packaging and transportation business decisions that are critical to their long-term objectives.
Because 3D printing is a diverse technology which yields a wide range of end products from guns to body parts to automobiles, it seems reasonable to expect that numerous House and Senate committees, as well as regulatory agencies, could be implicated and may have a say in determining how aspects of the industry are regulated. Our team has strong connections throughout Congress and the Administration, and is well-positioned to help clients due to the diversity of our practice group.