FICPI 12th Open Forum in Munich, Germany, September 8-11, featuring Robert Katz of Banner & Witcoff and David Musker (your humble correspondent).
Rob addresses aspects of the topic in his paper (with Daniel Cardy) "Virtual Design Theft: Is It Legal? Can You Stop It?", Innovation magazine, winter 2009, online here. Fascinating stuff, but those who would like to learn more would do well to come along to the FICPI session.
Venturing somewhat further into the future, Simon Bradshaw, Adrian Bowyer and Patrick Haufe consider the IP ramifications of a world where everyone has their own 3D printer and can make anything they want directly, rather than having to buy it. That might sound like Star Trek, but the technology is closer than you'd think. Their thought-provoking paper, "The Intellectual Property Implications of Low-Cost 3D Printing", (2010) 7:1 SCRIPTed 5, DOI: 10.2966/scrip.070110.5, is available here.
They conclude that the effect of "private and non-commercial" and other exclusions from design infringement would likely take home-printers out of the scope of design laws - quite a contrast to the position of home-tapers and downloaders of music and film. The likely corollary would be "design-sharing" sites, where instruction files for the 3D printer were uploaded, so that home users could download and reproduce the design.
In other words, just as with music and (increasingly) film, a market has moved from sale of products in the real world to sale of the designs of those products in cyberspace, where (Bradshaw et al argue) it is far from clear that the rights-owner has effective redress.
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