Research Blog Series: Going for Gold – IP Implications of 3D Scanning & 3D Printing

Dinusha Mendis shares her research on the IP issues surrounding 3D scanning, 3D printing and mass customisation, for our Research Blog Series.


Project: Going for Gold: A Legal and Empirical Study into the Intellectual Property (IP) Implications of 3D Scanning, 3D Printing and Mass Customisation

Investigators: Professor Dinusha Mendis, Bournemouth University, in collaboration with Uformia AS specialising in the manufacture of jewellery and 3D licensing and Nikoloas Maniatis of Museotechniki Ltd specialising in 3D scanning and printing of museum artefacts.

What did your research aim to do?
The aim was to explore the copyright, design and licensing issues surrounding 3D scanning, 3D printing and mass customisation of jewellery, in the cultural and business sectors.

How did you do it? 
We utilised a legal and empirical (qualitative) method. The team used an online survey followed by a legal analysis to understand the copyright and licensing issues which jewellery designers and consumers have to contend with in using 3D technology. The team also conducted interviews with national, local and regional museums and collaborated with a selected group of museums including the Historic Royal Palaces, Birmingham, Lancaster and Ipswich museums to form case studies.

What are your key findings?
Mass customisation of 3D models leading to 3D printing will continue to grow; however, the current IP laws are not fit for purpose. There have to be clearer guidelines on authorship and ownership of co-created and mass customised modern or ancient jewellery whilst the lack of standards amongst SMEs and museums is a cause for concern. Museums do not have an IP policy in place for 3D scanning and most tend to think of photogrammetry in this context. The clean division of labour between education, conservation and commerce within museums, makes coordination difficult.

What impact has your work had so far/what impact do you anticipate it will have?
The impact was identifying the need for IP policies within museums to take into account 3D scanning and printing and some museums are continuing to work with the research team to establish an IP policy suited for this technology. In the context of SMEs, a number of gaps in the law were revealed through the research which the team will take forward for the benefit of future policy.

Are there additional/new research questions still to be answered in this area?
There are many questions still to be answered in this area – which the researchers will take forward into future research.

For more information, see the event page and the promo video.

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