Could a new patent prevent a 3D printing free-for-all?

Summary:A patent for a DRM system that aims to stop future 3D printers owners from printing whatever they please has been granted.

A patent for a DRM system that aims to stop future 3D printer owners from printing whatever they please has been granted.

We may have imagined the day when cheap, commercial 3D printers invaded every household -- letting us print everything from clothes to cars -- but for companies that manufacture and design these products, a world where people could download these blueprints (think Wiki Weapons as an example), the future doesn't look so rosy.

If you consider how Inkjet printers revolutionized the printing industry twenty years back and put the commercial printing guy out of business, the idea is not so far-fetched.

DRM systems are used heavily in the music, movie and video game industries, although it doesn't stop people from playing the pirate -- using websites to find and download torrents which can distribute illegal content. Earlier this year, torrent search website The Pirate Bay launched 'Physibles' -- where you can download blueprints for anything from model cars to a pair of sneakers.

But would a new DRM patent make a difference?

The new patent was issued this week by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and is titled "Manufacturing control system." Applied for four years ago, the patent describes a system where 3D printers will have to obtain "authorization" before printing items requested by a user.

In a nutshell, if you want to print that pirate blueprint of the latest Nike shoes, your printer will have to go through a database for permission. Unlikely, in theory.

"This is an attempt to assert ownership over DRM for 3D printing. It's "Let’s use DRM to stop unauthorized copying of things," Michael Weinberg, staff lawyer at Public Knowledge told TorrentFreak.

The patent has been issued to former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold's firm Intellectual Ventures.

(via TorrentFreak)

Image credit: Tristan Bethe

Related:

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Topics: Innovation

About

Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer and former teacher. She has spent years travelling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher, and has been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charli... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.