While the concept of and procedure to be used in 3D-printing was first described by Murray Leinster in 1945, it was Johannes F Gottwald whose patented invention of the Liquid Metal Recorder (Patent Number US3596285A) was the first patent describing 3D printing. Fast-forward to the present times, the global market for 3D printing products and services was valued at around 12.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. Additionally, the industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of some 17 percent between 2020 and 2023 globally. A rapidly growing and developing technological advancement of such a calibre warrants for a strong, trustworthy regime of Intellectual Property protection across different regimes around the world. With the COVID-19 pandemic opening an unthinkable miseries of pandora’s boxes, especially with respect to the Indian economy, ironically a perfect opportunity lies ahead in terms of exploring this market place domain. Following are the relevant IPRs and the current loopholes (and/or shortcomings) with respect to 3D-printing in India.
As is the case with most of the budding technological advancements, patents prove attractive to the 3D printing industry. Both the 3D printing machines and the processes that these printers carry out can be protected by patents vis-à-vis the Indian Patents Act, 1970. A typical 3D printer may be covered by hundreds of patents, including separate patents for its hardware elements and the associated software as well (with the caveat that it is in line with the Computer-Related Inventions Rules, 2017).
There are several published patent applications indicating 3D-printing apparatus or a process or its usage. Patent No. 201941036026 describes a 3D printer that prints the user required 3-D shape in various plastic materials, and reinforced filaments. Another Patent No. 201911046028 describes an automatic system to level the print bed of a 3D printer.