3D Printing & The Law: Insights from Experts in Six Countries

One of the most prominent applications of 3D printing, and one where it holds significant promise for the future, is in healthcare.

3D printed prosthetics are already custom-made for patients throughout the world, and top research labs compete with each other to perfect bio-printing so that one day we may be able to create replacement body parts and organs.

It is essential that legal frameworks regarding e.g. medical device regulation and intellectual property are up-to-date and able to ensure we enjoy the benefits of 3D printed innovations while at the same time ensuring that our health and safety are protected.

3D printing in healthcare was one topic which featured in my recent research project, 3D Printing and Intellectual Property Futures, funded by the UK Intellectual Property Office.

The two year project involved fieldwork among 3D printing industry stakeholders in six countries across Europe and Asia (China, France, India, Russia, Singapore and the UK).

The research team, led by me, conducted this research to understand better the current state of play for 3D printing in these locations including its interaction with legal frameworks, and possible future scenarios for this relationship.

From this research, we have some relevant findings and comments for 3D printing in health. Firstly, despite much attention being paid to the relationship between 3D printing and IP law, for some industry representatives it is medical device regulation, product liability and health and safety laws which are actually more important for their daily activities in bringing 3D printing to market.

The demographics of a particular country may have an influence on government policy on 3D printing, which can affect health. For instance, the ageing population in Singapore is one factor behind government investment in new medical technologies including 3D printing. A similar phenomenon may also be seen in France.

While IP was the legal focus of this research, I continue to work on how different legal frameworks impact on 3D printing, including in the health and medical spheres.

Dr. Angela Daly

Dr. Angela Daly has more than ten years of transnational experience in academia, advocacy and policy-making concerning the regulation of new technologies. Since August 2019 she is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) at Strathclyde University Law School in Scotland, and directs the fully online, distance learning LLM/PgDip in Internet Law & Policy/Information Technology & Telecommunications Law: https://www.strath.ac.uk/courses/postgraduatetaught/internetlawpolicy/ Her most prominent recent publications are 'Good Data' (INC 2019), co-edited with S Kate Devitt and Monique Mann, and '3D Printing and IP Futures', co-authored with Thomas Birtchnell, Thierry Rayna and Ludmila Striukova for the UK Intellectual Property Office. She is also the author of 'Socio-Legal Aspects of the 3D Printing Revolution' (Palgrave 2016) and 'Private Power, Online Information Flows and EU Law' (Hart 2016).