When 3D printers become cheaper and more reliable, it will only be a matter of time when customers will be sued by toy manufacturers (among others), just as the RIAA has done to music enthusiasts. Why buy a $5 plastic figurine when your 3D scanner can precisely measure the entire object and print an exact replica for only a few cents? And while Billy may still be the first kid on the block to get the latest Pokemon or Power Ranger, moments later every other kid will also have it.
Proponents of IP will of course use the same arguments as they currently do to persecute music and video file-sharing. Yet, neither inventor nor manufacturer will be deprived of any property as no physical theft will take place.
Which brings us to a lawsuit filed by Scanner Technologies who is alleging that NVIDIA (tech firm that makes graphics cards), “willingly sold products based on a 3D ball-grid array (BGA) inspection system that allows for more reliable products. The system also allows better manufacturing efficiency.”
While details are still coming in, this is reminiscent of the recent high-stakes settlement between RIM (the makers of the BlackBerry) and NTL, a firm who simply sat on a patent rather than producing it.