3D Printing: The New Industrial Revolution?

CanadaFashionLaw recently participated as a panelist at a fashion law symposium in Chicago.  Overall, the theme of the symposium examined technology’s role in fashion.  Specifically, CanadaFashionLaw discussed intellectual property implications for the fashion world in its incorporation of 3D printing and scanning technologies.

Whereas another panelist heralded 3D printing as creating a new world order in the global supply chain, CanadaFashionLaw took a more measured approach.  This is not to take anything away from the sheer impressive awesomeness of 3D printing but to some extent we’ve seen similar digitization movements before.  So, will there be a new world order?  Likely, not.  Will it impact the marketplace and provide more opportunities?  Likely, yes.  Let us explain.

3D printing is exactly what it sounds like.  The ability to print 3-dimensional objects from a printer.  Although this technology has been around for a number of decades, it has only recently caught the attention of the mass market.  The foundational patents that provided market exclusivity expired and now the technology is open to all to use.  As such, given that there is a proliferation of 3D printing and scanning companies (and also given that the technology has evolved to iron out the kinks), 3D printing is cheaper and more accessible.  Whereas 3D printing was restricted to large companies and used for prototyping, 3D printing has now gone to mass market.  This facilitates the democratization of manufacturing, whereby small companies and individuals can build their own products with relative ease.

Of course, this raises huge intellectual property concerns.  If you start to print objects that are the subject of patent, copyright and trademark protection, are you infringing intellectual property rights?  Where does the liability fall: with the individual printing the object or with the CAD-file provider or both?  Will the proliferation of counterfeit products become even more rampant?  How practical are enforcement attempts?  Should there be a distinction between private and commercial use?

There is no doubt that technology is a hare and law is the tortoise in terms of evolution.  However, there are lessons to be learned from previous technological developments that can be applied to this new development.  For example, similarities can be drawn from the digitization of the music industry.  Yes, the retail model of the music industry was altered by the proliferation of MP3’s but the foundation of copyright protection afforded to the music industry largely remained the same.  Applied simply to the 3D printing world, if you start printing 3D objects where a 3rd party owns intellectual property rights to that object, you are exposing yourself to risk.

If you want to chat more about 3D printing and its application to the fashion industry, feel free to reach out to CanadaFashionLaw or check out the Spreading the Word page for upcoming and past speaking engagements, published articles and journalistic commentary.

Quebec Court: Canada’s Kinda Bilingual

Previously, CanadaFashionLaw covered retailers’ challenge to the Office Quebecois de la Langue Francaise (basically, the French language police).

The Quebec Superior Court issued their decision last week which put the reins on the French language police.

Public signage and marketing in Quebec is regulated by the Quebec Charter of French Language.  The French Charter requires that signage/commercial advertisements be predominantly in French.  However, there are exceptions when trade-marks are involved.  Generally, where the trade-mark is registered in English, the brand owner is not required to display the French equivalent.  In a recent decision that was issued last week, the Superior Court of Quebec held that a non-French trade-mark does not need to be accompanied with a French descriptor.  However, if the French equivalent is also a registered trade-mark, the brand owner is required to use the French version.

Ultimately, it is a business decision on whether your company wishes to register the French version.  If there are strong ties to the Quebec culture, using the French equivalent will certainly assist in fostering better relations with the Quebecois.  If, however, Quebec is a secondary market, it may streamline your company’s marketing materials by not registering in French as well.

Fashion Law in the News

Over the past few weeks, a number of publications have reached out to CanadaFashionLaw for our perspective on a number of issues in the fashion industry.  Here’s a summary of the articles, if you’re interested in them:

1. The Genteel examined New York’s new legislation that better protects child models.  Click here if you’re interested.

2. The World Intellectual Property Review explored the issues raised in the Canada Goose v. Sears case. Click here if you’re interested.