IP Law vs 3D Printing: the 5 Worst Examples

In Archive by Karim Hamdi0 Comments

Similarly to the rise of file sharing, the rise of 3D printing is leading to more and more conflicts around intellectual property (IP).
For the most part, it doesn’t look like any lessons were learned from the sharing debacle, so we’re in for much more of the same DMCA nonsense.

So to keep it entertaining, here are our 5 worst examples of IP crackdown on 3D printing.

For more information on 3D printing and IP, please check the box at the bottom for links.

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1. Penrose triangle


Penrose Triangle Illusion

Dr. Ulrich Schwanitz gets the first spot on this list, since he issued the first DMCA take down notice to Thingiverse.
It’s simple, if you’re the first, you’re the worst!

He 3D modelled the “impossible” Penrose Triangle and sold the result for $70 on Shapeways. Some else modeled it later as well and put it on Thingiverse for free, hence the take down notice.

Obviously, Dr. Schwanitz didn’t come up with the Penrose Triangle. Neither did Lionel Penrose nor his son Roger, who popularized the design by Swedish artist Oscar Reutersvärd a good 15 years after its creation in 1934.

A design so stolen that it doesn’t even bear it’s inventors name is a perfect example for the absurdity of modern IP laws.
He who is without sin shall cast the first stone, Dr. Schwanitz!

2. Duchamp’s chess set


Readymake: Duchamp Chess Set

Marcel Duchamp’s (†1968) is one of  the most influential artist of the 20th century, mostly known for his Readymades.

He also had a second career as chess player and carved his own chess set.

Unfortunately it was lost in time and there is only on single archive picture left to testify to it’s beauty.

Enter young artists Scott Kildall and Bryan Cera, who managed to turn the picture into printable 3D models and uploaded it on Thingiverse for everyone to cherish.

The Duchamp Estate would have none of it and threatened legal action. Unfortunately Kildall and Cera couldn’t find legal counsel and took down their work (read the full story here).

Why does this case merit second place?
Because the Duchamp estate needlessly impeded the artistic progress of two young upcoming artists, without regard to Duchamp’s legacy.

Kildall and Cera have not given up yet, showing wit and creativity with the release of Chess with Mustache, inspired by Duchamp’s own satire of the Mona Lisa, an art piece called L.H.O.O.Q. :})

3. Left Shark

Katy Perry performing Teenage Dream at halftime of Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale

Do you remember Left Shark, the hilariously incompetent dancer in Katy Perry’s Super Bowl halftime show?
Fernando Sosa 3D modeled it and put it up on Shapeways.
Katy Perry’s legal team picked it up, and swiftly answered with a cease and desist for copyright infringement. Lucky for us, people of the interweb, Sosa called bullshit, lawyered up and Left Shark is back!
It doesn’t end there, Perry’s lawyers recently failed at passing of left shark as a trademark.

This is the length to which some highly paid entertainment industry lawyers will pursue their cases, no matter how frivolous they are.
Dear Perry, putting people in silly costumes is neither protected by copyright nor trademark.
Have you tried patents, though?

4. Warhammer


The Warhammer franchises by Games Workshop have a long history of being the most successful tabletop wargames. Unfortunately Games Workshop also has a long history of charging outrageous prices for their miniatures. So it should come as no surprise that they send a DMCA take down notice the second Thomas Valenty put Warhammer styled 3D models on Thingiverse.

It’s not even clear this constitutes a violation, since Valenty didn’t copy any specific model but only fashioned models in the style of Warhammer. Style is not copyrightable, but they surely scared him into taking down the models.

5. Final Fantasy


Final Fantasy is one of the oldest and most venerated game franchises there is, with 14 games and tons fans. So, when longtime gamer and digital artist Joaquin Baldwin made neat 3D printed figurines of beloved Final Fantasy characters, Reddit, tech and geek blogs went crazy.
Just a month later, Final Fantasy owner Square Enix issued a DMCA take down, effectively killing the momentum.

While the law is definitely on Square Enix’s side, it’s sad to see them crush a nice fan project like that.
Striking a licensing deal with the artist might have resulted in a great social media campaign and an overall win for the Final Fantasy franchise.

Legal infos


This link repository by the research service of the European Parliamentary (EPRS) is about legal aspects of 3D printing.

White papers about 3D printing & IP by Public Knowledge, a non-profit involved in intellectual property law.
3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and the Fight Over the Next Great Disruptive Technology
What’s the deal with Copyright and 3D Printing?

Image sources


“Penrose Triangle” is in the public domain.

“Readymake: Duchamp Chess Set” and “Chess with a mustache” courtesy of Scott Kildall and Bryan Cera.

“Katy Perry performing “Teenage Dream” at halftime of Super Bowl XLIX” by Huntley Paton is licensed under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license. Cropped from original.

A fully painted army of Space Marine miniatures” by Larkin Vain is licensed under the CC BY 3.0 license.

“3D printed Cloud Strife Polygon model” by Christian H. is licensed under the CC BY 2.0 license.

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About the Author

Karim Hamdi

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As founder of FABBEO, the 3D printing marketplace, I've been active in the 3D printing community since 2012. I've co-organized the Make Munich and am founding member of the Munich Maker Lab.