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Before You Hit Print...

Last week, MakerBot began shipping the MakerBot Replicator Mini—a smaller, less expensive 3-D printer intended for home use—making it easier for inventors, entrepreneurs and do-it-yourselfers to create physical objects.
 
3-D printers are increasingly being used for a variety of projects.  In Syria, they’ve been used to make artificial limbs for civil war victims, and in China, they’ve been used to print houses.  Now, with the arrival of the MakerBot Replicator Mini, you could print any kind of object at your kitchen table.
 
But before you hit print, there are some questions you should ask yourself:

• Am I printing this object for commercial purposes?
If you are printing the object for commercial purposes, under strict product liability laws, you could be liable for injury that may result from the object.

• Am I printing someone else’s intellectual property?
If you are printing someone else’s patented product or copyrighted design, or even printing a trademark like Nike’s swoosh, then you may be violating intellectual property laws.

• Am I printing a weapon?
3-D printed firearms have generated a lot of press, and federal and state laws are evolving as a result.  Be certain that you aren't violating any of these laws.

• Am I printing something that will come in contact with food?
The Food and Drug Administration has various rules and regulations pertaining to the types of substances which may come into contact with food. If you are printing something for use with food, consider whether you must comply with FDA regulations.
 
As with anything that revolutionizes technology, the law lags behind the possible, and this is true for 3-D printers.  Federal and state legislatures are still trying to figure out how to deal with 3-D printers and the objects created by them.  You can expect more laws and regulations to come.
 
So before you hit the print button, consider whether you are violating any laws, and if uncertain, contact a member of our Emerging Technologies Practice Group.