Dr. Andreas Leupold LL. M. (UT)
Leupold Legal
Dr. Andreas Leupold LL. M. (UT)
German Lawyer / Business Mediator
Best Lawyers® 2023 Germany

3D Printing & the Law

3D Printing Lawyer Dr. Andreas Leupold

There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.“ Ken Olson, President, Chairmen and Founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

As we know today, some reasons have indeed been found for the use of personal computers and Ken Olson’s opinion now belongs to the 10 most popular IT errors. The potential of 3D-printers and additive manufacturing was initially also deemed to be similarly low, since the first examples of the use of 3D printing were limited to some playing figures and dust catchers. However, a lot has happened since Charles W. Hull’s application for the first patent for a 3D printer in 1986. In the meantime, multimaterial 3D-printers also make the processing of various materials possible in the same workpiece and the printing procedures and methods are no longer limited to the known stereo-lithography and photopolymerization but are enhanced or replaced by newer methods such as lamination (selective deposition lamination – in short SDL), granular printing with powder (3DP), selective laser sintering (SLS) or heat sintering (SHS). In addition to this, among others also the methods of electron beam melting (EBM), fused deposition melting (FDM) and fused filament fabrication (FFF), so-called  stick deposition molding (SDM), multi-jet modeling (MJM) as well as film transfer imaging (FTI) and digital light processing (DLP) have come into being. 

What was initially only a topic for computer magazines has, in the meantime, become the subject of reporting in daily news and media. And with the first home printers priced at less than 500 Euros the technology has finally reached the consumers. In the foreseeable future, 3D-printers will make it possible for everyone to manufacture consumer goods, that up until now were reserved for industrial companies and which can thus fundamentally change the production and sales of numerous goods. Many people speak of the next industrial revolution and of a democratizing of production that is to be made possible by 3D printing. If consumer goods or items of daily use are no longer produced in the emerging countries and then no longer have to be transported over large distances to the western industrial nations but can be produced by the end-user himself, then this will certainly have far reaching effects on the world economy and the way products are produced and sold and sustainably change them. Then only a printing file has to be sent instead of the finished product. The usual supply chain of intermediaries and distributors can then mostly be dropped and long delivery times or sold out articles will then become something of the past. However, in addition to these advantages 3D printing also makes an individualizing or customizing of mass articles possible to an extent that has been unknown up until now and the production of single pieces or small series is also made possible, which up until now was not possible for cost reasons. The possibilities are indeed more or less endless: they range from printing simple household goods via the manufacturing of clothing, music instruments and tools to the customization of medicines and even organs.

Even then, if 3D-printing is no longer used for the so-called rapid prototyping, but is used in production, a multitude of legal questions are posed, the risk potential of which is often underestimated. Businesses that are thinking of using additive manufacturing technologies themselves should also consult a lawyer in order to avoid or to limit product liability just as manufacturers of brand-name products must go new ways in fighting against plagiarisms, which in future anyone can manufacture in their own living room. The offers of CAD- files necessary for 3D printing must think about whether their printing orders underlie copyright protection or whether a corresponding patent can be applied for.  The external form of products can also underlie trademark protection or be the subject of design protection which is comparatively simple and cost-efficient. Suppliers and users of additive manufacturing methods also profit from Dr. Andreas Leupold’s years of experience in industrial property, such as the creators and suppliers of CAD printing files in STL, AMF and 3MF formats. Special (liability) risks also result from the manufacturing of firearms using a 3D-printer and the offering of printing files necessary for this. Up until now, German weapons law only regulates the manufacturing and sales of weapons and munition but not the manufacturing and sale of printing files and day to day printing materials such as plastics suitable for the printing of weapons. Particularly before 3D printers are used for the making of weapons, legal advice should therefore be taken.

3D printing touches many areas of law. Dr. Andreas Leupold advises businesses and companies regarding the challenges of industrial 3D Printing, in creating and preparing contracts and license agreements relating to additive manufacturing and represents companies in enforcing their rights in 3D printing. Dr. Andreas Leupold offers legal advice in the area of 3D printing, from which the manufacturers of 3D printers and 3D printing materials and also for 3D service providers and the operators of platforms for the sale of 3D-CAD files can profit. Among his legal advisory services are the creating of license contracts and terms of purchasing and sales for the purchasing and sale of 3D printers, printing materials and printing templates. In the case of the infringement of trademarks and other protective rights by 3D printing, he takes over in-court and out-of-court representation of the proprietors of rights. Due to his years of experience as a lawyer in defending against unjustified warnings, he is also well acquainted with the legal questions that the operators of 3D design communities and market places for 3D models are faced with when claiming forbearance and compensation of damages.

The law firm of Dr. Andreas Leupold has received several awards for 3D Printing & Law, most recently the Global Law Experts Award 3D Printing Law Firm of the Year in Germany 2017 and the Corporate Intl. Award 2017 3D Printing Sector Law Firm of the Year in Germany. The lawyer Dr. Andreas Leupold is also a founding member and a member of the supervisory board of the industrial network for 3D printing Mobility goes Additive that was initiated by the German Railway Deutsche Bahn. He is the editor and co-author of the manual 3D Printing: Recht, Wirtschaft & Technik des industriellen 3D-Drucks (3D Printing: Law, Business & Technology of Industrial 3D Printing), the foreword for which has been written by the internationally renowned expert for 3D printing Terry Wohlers of Wohlers Associates, Inc. and to which more than 30 experts from the industry, e.g. from companies such as Airbus, Linde AG, Allianz, Deutsche Bahn and voestalpine as well as experts from the law and legal sciences, research and technology have contributed. He is the editor and author of the guide "3D-Druck, Additive Fertigung und Rapid Manufacturing" ("3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing and Rapid Manufacturing").