Posts tagged Laraine Burrell
STEREOLITHOGRAPHY and Intellectual Property

Additive Manufacturing to some – 3D Printing to the rest of us.

“Stereo, what?”

Stereolithography or SLA, is a technology used for the 3D printing of models, prototypes and other three-dimensional products.  It is also known as additive manufacturing because the production process involves adding layer upon layer of material with photopolymerization – the application of light to cause the layers of materials to link creating a solid, three-dimensional form. 

Research in this area began in the 1970s, and a patent on the process was granted to Chuck Hall in 1984.  While the early years of 3D printing were grounded in science and technology (and of no real interest or usefulness to the average person), the evolution of the process has changed the 3D printing landscape, making it into a more creative application.  Today, 3D printing is not only more readily accessible to the average person – it can also be great fun.


SLA in the Technical World:

In recent years SLA has evolved so that many different types of materials can be used in 3D printing. For example, SLA is commonly used in the medical field for making plastic molds for hearing aids, for building a custom fit ceramic crown in a dental office, or for anatomical models to be used by doctors for preoperative planning.  The company Invisalign© has been using the technology for years to custom mold retainers.  Similarly, other companies use SLA to create three-dimensional bone-replacement devices uniquely measured for a specific patient.

 

Likewise, automobile manufacturers can print replacement parts for cars as needed whether it is made from rubber, plastic or metal.  In fact, designer, Petr Chladek built an entire car through the use of 3D printing.  His “4ekolka” all-electric car is not only lightweight but more economical.

The 4ekolka is an all-electric car made entirely through the use of 3D printing.

The 4ekolka is an all-electric car made entirely through the use of 3D printing.

 
Custom designs and personalization such as a 3D thermoplastic skin

Custom designs and personalization such as a 3D thermoplastic skin

3D printing can be used for elements of a car’s bodywork to allow for custom designs and customer personalization such as in the form of a 3D thermoplastic skin.[1]

The advantages of SLA include the ability to produce products, as needed, reducing the need for storage space.  Also, there is less waste. Any material not used in the product can be reused.  With 3D printers becoming more locally available it is now easier than ever to have something printed locally versus having a product shipped to you. 

However, more technical 3D printing projects may require a CAD based software program to design instructions for the printer. For the rest of us, there are simple 3D design apps drawing the schematics for the product we design—which we can then print ourselves with a relatively inexpensive home printer—or sent to a 3D printing company such as Shapeways.[2]

SLA in the Creative World:

As the scope of materials used in 3D printing has expanded, and the printers themselves have evolved to manage more complicated printing projects, SLA has evolved into an artform – literally. 

Printers can use gold, silver, sandstone, acrylics, wax—even food products such as sugar and fresh ingredients—to create three-dimensional products including jewelry, shoes, clothing, and artwork.  Even the “wings” the Victoria’s Secret models use in their fashion shows are 3D printed.[3]

Examples:

3D jewelry and household items (source: Shapeways.com):

Footwear:

Adidas is launching its Futurecraft 4D shoe.[4]

Racing to compete in the 3D market, Nike is launching its Zoom Vaporfly Elite Flyprint.[5]

Designer Katrien Herdewyn has designed 3D printed high heels.[6]

Clothing:

Paris Fashion Week presents 3D printed clothing (left).[7]
And a Victoria’s Secret Model wearing 3D printed lingerie (right).[8]

3D Printed Edibles: 

SLA has even made its way to food. These are examples of using sugar and water compounds for 3D printed cakes.[9]

Games & Entertainment: 

SLA has an application in the games and entertainment industries such as a guitar[10], and chess[11].


BUT WAIT:  Is your fun or hobby breaking the law?

SLA can appeal to scientists and artists, foodies and fashionistas. The attraction to 3D printing may be the intricacy of writing computer code for 3D artwork or the excitement of seeing your design grow layer by layer into a tangible three-dimensional form.  A 3D printed product can be unique and complex, or simple and easily mass-produced.   Children love having their faces printed on the three-dimensional image of their favorite Disney ® character.[12]  Or Star Wars® fans might want their image printed onto a model of a Storm Trooper®.[13]  

But whenever we come up with great creative ideas and different ways to express ourselves, the creativity police – commonly known as Intellectual Property Lawyers – are always hovering in the background ready to dampen our fun.  And for good reason.

Intellectual property laws are designed to help protect our creations. 

Three-dimensional models can be protected by copyright law, which gives the designer the exclusive right to reproduce and sell his design.  Similarly, trademark law protects trademarks or brands such as Disney ®, Nike ® and others from being imprinted on unauthorized products.  The technology behind the SLA printers themselves may be protected by patent law.  And the code used to program a printer may be protected by trade secret law

An Unfortunate Truth:

Technology is always attractive to infringers – those wanting to make easy money by copying other peoples’ ideas. 

SLA is a particularly attractive target for infringers as the cost to set up business is becoming more affordable.  3D printing requires only a small space for a printer versus a larger manufacturing plant and warehouse. Plus, today’s smaller printers are more mobile and can easily be moved between locations to avoid detection.  SLA does not need the shipping and distribution channels that typical product manufacturing require. The program codes, design graphics, and other schematics can be readily sent over the Internet to a local 3D printing service for in-person pick up, or for delivery service.

The intellectual property owner’s ability to control their products’ creation and distribution can be difficult.  Particularly when the cyber-technological nature of SLA means the orders and sales of SLA products can traverse international borders, or can be communicated between computer devices –virtually undetected. 

Where ordinarily imported goods would be monitored by U.S. Border and Customs Protection to ensure goods coming into the U.S. are authentic and not counterfeit, that gatekeeping step might be erased when using SLA. 

A recent study estimates the global loss of revenue to intellectual property owners in 2018 alone through the use of SLA will be around one hundred billion dollars.[14]

A Cybersecurity Issue:

An important concern is that the cyber-technological nature of SLA may make it easily accessible to hackers.  Illegally altered SLA files can result in the manufacture of abnormal 3D images including malformed medical implants, or imperfectly manufactured automotive parts that could cause physical harm if used. 

Using cybersecurity to protect SLA is more important than ever—not only in the manufacturing environment—but also for general business and home use of 3D printing.

Here are three general rules to follow when creating, selling and buying SLA:

  • Creators should identify the work they consider proprietary; that they wouldn’t want anyone else to steal from them; and use intellectual property laws to protect those rights against infringers. 
  • Sellers should know the provenance of the product they are selling: Who manufactured it?  Was the manufacturer authorized to manufacture it?  Is the seller making accurate representations about the product he is selling – is it really an authentic automotive part? 
  • Buyers must be diligent about vetting the products they buy.  Is the model an authentic Disney ® princess or a cheap knockoff?

Final Thoughts:

As we acknowledge World Intellectual Property Day on April 26, 2018, let us all admire and respect the creative processes of others.

 
Planet Earth  [15]

Planet Earth [15]

 

This year’s World Intellectual Property Day campaign celebrates the brilliance, ingenuity, curiosity and courage of the women who are driving change in our world and shaping our common future.[16]

If you should have questions or need legal assistance with your intellectual property, contact Laraine Burrell directly and read up on all the latest IP topics on the JDSA Blog.


KNOCK IT OFF!

Stop Counterfeiting in its Tracks

If you’ve ever purchased a knock-offlike a watch or purseyou know they can be quite convincing. Some are so accurate, you’re convinced you have an original. So, how did counterfeiting become so, well, good? And did you know there is a legal difference between knock-offs and counterfeits?

Typically, the term “counterfeiting” invokes an image of a ready-to-sell, fake product.  Seldom does a discussion on counterfeiting include the observable signs of “pre-counterfeiting” activity and how to prevent the fabrication of a fake item before it occurs. Cloning a product requires knowledge of several basic components including, the product make-up, what it looks like, and how it is created. This includes the manufacturing process, the materials used in making the product, the distribution channels, the retail markets and price points. Counterfeiters will seek opportunities to obtain valuable information to assist them in creating a counterfeit product: A product intended to devalue your business assets.

Certain types of business activities or incidents might appear to be random or coincidental events. However, upon closer evaluation, they may be one part of an elaborate counterfeiting scheme. Some known examples regarding how counterfeiters infiltrated a business to create knock-off products include:

  • Employees

  • Machinery and Materials

  • Manufacturing and Distribution Chains

  • Point of Sale

  • Damage Control

  • Asset protection

While there are many legal options for stopping the production of knock-off products, claims for counterfeiting can only be brought if the claimant owns a federal trademark registration.  Therefore, a company’s business plan to combat counterfeiting should include a discussion with a lawyer about the possibility of federal trademark protection.

Read the full article to learn more about this, and descriptions of all above examples.

ICANN Do What?

Fighting Intellectual Property Infringement via Email

One advantage attorneys have, in arguing Intellectual Property Law cases in the United States, is the established precedent allowing us to serve notice to international defendants via email. Often, it’s the only way.

In a recent counterfeiting lawsuit involving a European defendant, the court granted me leave to perform the process of service on the defendant by email. Opposing counsel had never heard of such a thing.  Process of service by email?  What was I thinking? The fact is, what is typical for one legal practice area might be completely foreign to another practice area. But, in cybersquatting, and other Internet and website-related lawsuits involving domain names, service of process by email has been around for fifteen years or more. 

This Blog post revisits the rationale behind service by email, the rules on which it is based, and why it helps prevent foreign defendants from thumbing their noses at U.S. victims of their fraudulent schemes instead bringing those defendants into the jurisdiction of a U.S. court.


ICANN Recognizes Potential Conflicts

In the 1990s, when domain names using literal terms were first used, the Internet community quickly recognized that trademark infringement would be a problem if persons registered domain names incorporating a brand name without that brand owner’s permission. That lead the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit organization, to set out rules for potential conflict between trademarks and domain names - bearing in mind that because of the global reach of the Internet, domain name disputes would likely extend world-wide.

ICANN decided that when registering top-level domain names (such as .com and .net) domain name registrants world-wide would have to contractually agree to provide the registrar with a current and valid email address, and that registrant must agree to accept service of process by email. The public records of each registrant showing the domain name registered and the identifying information of the registrant, including email address, are known as the “Whois” records and are easily accessible through any Internet search engine.


Extending Service of Process by Email to U.S. Lawsuits

As the Internet became more widely used, so did the scope of the abuse of trademark rights.  Fraudsters sitting off-shore in havens such as the Cayman Islands had no qualms about setting up off-shore gambling websites using domain names incorporating famous casino brands such as MGM and BALLY’S.  The fraudsters duped unwitting patrons into providing sensitive personal and credit card information to what patrons believed were legitimate gaming sites operated by famous and reputable casinos.  

The casinos had to take action. 

Trademark rights were being infringed, reputations were being damaged, and the resolution needed something more than a slap on the wrist and the taking away of a domain name.  It required large monetary judgments against these fraudsters. 

It was one thing to file a lawsuit against these defendants who were clearly violating United States trademark laws, but how could defendants be served if they resided outside of the U.S?  Plaintiffs had to find ways to haul foreign defendants into a U.S. court.


The Rio Properties Lawsuit of 2002 [1]

The owners of a Las Vegas hotel and casino, the Rio All Suites Casino Resort, (“RIO”) filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against a foreign entity, Rio International Interlink (“RII”).  RII was an entity in Costa Rica engaged in Internet gaming via its website at <www.riosports.com> grossing an estimated $3,000,000.00 annually.   RII advertised its gaming services in Nevada where the Rio hotel casino is located. RIO’s lawsuit alleged trademark infringement because RII was using a domain name incorporating RIO’s trademark without RIO’s permission and which was confusing to consumers who patronized RII’s gaming website believing it was operated by RIO.

RIO attempted to serve the lawsuit within the United States to a mailing address in Miami, but was unsuccessful. They found no person or entity entitled to accept service on RII’s behalf.  RIO filed an emergency motion for alternative service of process to known addresses and contacts, and also via email to RII’s email address.  The court granted the motion, but RII later challenged the sufficiency of service by email and the court’s exercise of U.S. jurisdiction over the Costa Rican defendant.

The case went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Ninth Circuit acknowledged that it was treading on “untrodden ground,” but recognized the need for courts to keep pace with advances in technology and modern e-business models. As RII had structured its business so that it could only be contacted by email, and because email was its preferred method of contact, the court found that service by email was appropriate.  It complied with the rules requiring RIO use a method of service reasonably calculated to apprise RII of the lawsuit against it.  A fact proven when RII responded to the lawsuit.

After the RIO decision, alternative service of process by email became typical for suits where defendants were hiding off shore or behind domain name proxy services.  From this, we’ve seen the law and our courts are more than willing to keep pace with the rapid changes in technology and the new business models being created.  All it takes is presenting them with a logical, legally viable argument as to why the law needs to take another step forward.


[1] Rio Properties, Inc. v. Rio International, Interlink, 284 F.3d 1007 (2002).

WORLD INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY DAY: The Value of Global Brands

Each year on April 26th the intellectual property community celebrates World Intellectual Property Day to recognize the role creation and innovation has played in our lives.  Intellectual property – ranging from patents and trademark to copyrights and trade secrets – has made our lives safer, more comfortable, and through innovation is turning problems into progress.

Trademarks, or “brands” as they are known in the advertising and marketing community, are the more familiar form of Intellectual Property that people interact with on a daily basis.  From the morning cup of Starbucks® coffee to the late-night snack from McDonald’s® our lives, our possessions, are an array of trademark choices often influenced by a trademark’s reputation.  As a brand grows in recognition and reputation so can its value and so it is appropriate on World Intellectual Property Day to not only recognize the world’s most valuable brands, but also to consider why trademarks are a valuable asset to any business.


The Most Valuable Brands of 2016:

Authorities differ on which brand was the most valuable in 2016, but there is a general consensus that certain brands consistently rank among the world’s best in reputation and value[1].  The following list from Forbes offers no surprises as to which companies have the most valuable global brands, but perhaps food for thought is the fact that something as simple as a trademark can be worth billions of dollars:

 

Source: Forbes


 

Why Trademarks are Valuable to Any Business:

No matter the size of a business, nor the goods and services it sells, its trademarks are likely to be the most valuable asset it has.  Even so, many businesses underestimate the potential value of their brands and how to get the most value out of a trademark.  Trademarks have a certain role to play in the business arena.  Knowing what that role is and then allowing a trademark to properly do its job could turn a new business enterprise into the next billion-dollar business world leader.

1.     Trademarks Relay Information to Consumers:

Trademarks are an efficient way to market your products to consumers.  They are source identifiers.  They tell consumers that here is the source of a certain product of a certain quality and reputation.  Trademarks help consumers find products among a sea of competing goods and the more distinctive and recognizable a trademark is, the more likely it will stand out from its competitors and influence a consumer’s choice of purchase.

Importantly, it is consumer experience that creates value or “good will” in a brand.  The more consumers learn that when buying a certain product, they will get a certain experience – good or bad – the more the reputation of the brand under which the product is sold grows. 

2.     Trademarks Can Efficiently Promote Your Products, and Enhance Business Reputation Through the Internet:

Many consumers use the Internet to search for information on products and services and typically do so by typing a brand name into the search engine.  The more a trademark is marketed and becomes known to consumers, and the more consumers search the Internet by using that trademark, the higher that trademark tends to appear in Internet rankings.  A higher ranking can in turn generate more traffic and greater consumer interest toward the trademark resulting in greater brand value.

3.     Trademarks Ensure Companies Don’t Lose Business to Competitors:

Trademark law is designed to protect consumers from becoming confused between products and from accidentally purchasing one product when they intended to purchase another.  The goal of a trademark is to prevent that confusion by being as distinctively different from competitors’ marks as possible.  Logically, no business wants to lose customers.  A business should, therefore, not only adopt trademarks that are distinctive, but also monitor the marketplace to make sure competitors are not appropriating customers by intentionally using a confusingly similar brand.

4.     Trademarks Can Enhance Employee Experience:

A brand’s reputation can have an effect on employees working under that brand.  If the brand has a good reputation, employees may feel more positively toward their jobs, and have a greater sense of pride in their work.  A more reputable brand is more likely to draw applicants for employment positions than a brand with a bad reputation.  A more reputable brand can create better business opportunities for the brand owner.

5.     The Billion Dollar Brands Were Initially Purchased for a Few Hundred Dollars:

An application for a federal trademark can be as little as $325; less for a state registration, and the fees to maintain a registration every five or ten years are only a couple of hundred dollars.[2]  Considering the value a good mark can add to a company, the cost to adopt, use and register a trademark is a bargain. 

Without a doubt, our lives are better today because society encourages innovation and creation, and recognizes the value of intellectual property.  As the world celebrates World Intellectual Property Day, take a look around and see how creation and innovation over the years have enhanced your life.


  [1] A brand’s value should not be confused with a company’s value.  A brand can be considered an asset entitled to its own entry on the company balance sheets.

[2] While the United State Patent and Trademark Office, and various State offices, have made applying for a trademark a fairly simple process, there are pitfalls and seeking legal advice from an Intellectual Property Attorney is recommended.