Lucas S. Osborn


3D printing technology promises to disrupt trademark law at the same time that trademark law and policy sustain repeated criticism. The controversial growth of trademark law over the last century has yielded amorphous sponsorship and affiliation confusion issues and empirically fragile post-sale and initial-interest confusion theories, among others. Into this melee marches 3D printing technology, which dissociates the process of design from that of manufacturing and democratizes manufacturing. Rather than being embodied only in physical objects, design is embodied in digital CAD files that users can post and sell on the internet. The digitization of physical objects raises fundamental questions for trademark law and policy and necessitates careful consideration of trademark law’s boundaries with other intellectual property regimes, including utility patent, design patent, and copyright law.