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D. Mendis – ‘Clone Wars’ Episode II – The Next Generation: The Copyright Implications Relating to Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Files

D. Mendis – ‘Clone Wars’ Episode II – The Next Generation: The Copyright Implications Relating to Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Files [2014] 6(2) Law, Innovation and Technology, pp. 265-281

This paper considers the copyright implications surrounding design files through the use of CAD software. Design object files (also referred to as CAD-based design files in the context of this paper) which provide the ability to create, share and disseminate 3D designs for download and printing are highly relevant in the 3D printing landscape. Without the CAD file, or 3D design, a 3D printed product will not come into being. Furthermore, in considering 3D models and 3D designs, it is apparent that online tools (or ‘apps’ as they are known) play a significant role in designing and re-designing the models. This is of particular importance once again to 3D designs or CAD files, the transformation or modification of which raises interesting copyright issues.

For example, can a CAD file be protected under copyright law? Does it qualify as a literary work? Where the file is modified by other users—either by scanning or through the use of online tools—what are the implications for copyright and, in particular, originality? Therefore, whilst 3D printing raises a variety of issues relating to intellectual property rights, this paper will focus principally on the implications for copyright law.

A consideration of these issues, which arise from the use of and access to online platforms and CAD files shared therein, requires an exploration of the implications for copyright law. As such, this paper will consider the application of UK and EU copyright law to 3D printing before concluding with some thoughts for the future.