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March 18, 2015

Aerospace Industry Provides Case Study Response to 3D Printing Advances

3D Printing is here to stay and aerospace manufacturers are adapting their intellectual property strategies.  The aerospace sector was one of the first to employ ‚stereolithography,‘ as it was coined in the 1980s.  With recent advances, this technology enables manufacturers to produce complex parts more quickly, reduce production lead times and inventory costs.

Up to now, manufacturers have mostly relied solely on patents to protect their technologies, which were sufficient for 20 years.  Now, 3D printing makes protection more complex, since suppliers can now produce replica parts based on CAD design files.  Patents cannot protect manufacturers from file sharing and printing in all cases.  Therefore, manufacturers should consider the following to expand their IP protection:

  1. Seeking specific design protection where possible;
  2. Applying copyright protection to CAD files;
  3. Continuing vigorous patent protection; and
  4. Gaining an early interest in revenue streams by licensing designs to manufacturers. 

The expert attorneys at Cislo & Thomas LLP would be happy to help you expand your IP strategy in response to new technologies and the changing legal landscape. 


March 16, 2015

The Role of IP in our Driverless Future

There is no one still living who knew a time before the automobile.  Last year, Google revealed a new prototype of its driverless car, which had no steering wheel, gas pedal, or brakes.  This was the first 100% autonomous car to come from Googles long-time project.  Google has not revealed any immediate plans to commercialize this car, though it does hope to market the system and the data behind it to automobile manufacturers.  Britain is currently testing similar technology developed at Oxford University, which uses a 3D laser scanner rather than GPS navigation, on it’s roads.

Some raise moral concerns over this technology.  These cars may drive better, but how will they make moral decisions in scenarios where an accident is imminent and unavoidable?  Though the operation of autonomous cars is permitted in 4 US states, the California Department of Motor Vehicles raised concerns that all current driving laws presume that a human is operating the vehicle in question.  This technology presents a variety of legal questions.  For example, how will fault be allocated in an accident?  Can Google and Oxford develop “ethical crashing algorithms?”  Driverless cars will inevitably break and crash sometimes. Who is held accountable in such cases?  It may be the programmers who wrote the underlying code, making this a question of software IP.  The recent Alice v CLS Bank decision of the US Supreme Court has shown us that the status of IP protection for software is vexed and in flux. Driverless cars will be one type of connected device where legal issues (collaborative creation, device interoperability, digital circumvention, ownership of APIs) will be front and center.