CAD files and European design law
Title: CAD files and European design law
Author: ELAM, Viola
Citation: Journal of Intellectual Property Information Technology and E-Commerce Law (JIPITEC), 2016, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 146-162
External link: https://www.jipitec.eu/issues/jipitec-7-2-2016/4439
Three-dimensional printing (“3DP”) is an additive manufacturing technology that starts with a virtual 3D model of the object to be printed, the so-called Computer-Aided-Design (“CAD”) file. This file, when sent to the printer, gives instructions to the device on how to build the object layer-by-layer. This paper explores whether design protection is available under the current European regulatory framework for designs that are computer-created by means of CAD software, and, if so, under what circumstances. The key point is whether the appearance of a product, embedded in a CAD file, could be regarded as a protectable element under existing legislation. To this end, it begins with an inquiry into the concepts of “design” and “product”, set forth in Article 3 of the Community Design Regulation No. 6/2002 (“CDR”). Then, it considers the EUIPO’s practice of accepting 3D digital representations of designs. The enquiry goes on to illustrate the implications that the making of a CAD file available online might have. It suggests that the act of uploading a CAD file onto a 3D printing platform may be tantamount to a disclosure for the purposes of triggering unregistered design protection, and for appraising the state of the prior art. It also argues that, when measuring the individual character requirement, the notion of “informed user” and “the designer’s degree of freedom” may need to be reconsidered in the future. The following part touches on the exceptions to design protection, with a special focus on the repairs clause set forth in Article 110 CDR. The concluding part explores different measures that may be implemented to prohibit the unauthorised creation and sharing of CAD files embedding design-protected products.
First published online: 2016; Any party may pass on this Work by electronic means and make it available for download under the terms and conditions of the Digital Peer Publishing License. The text of the license may be accessed and retrieved at http://www.dipp.nrw.de/lizenzen/dppl/dppl/DPPL_v2_en_06-2004.html
Succeeding version: http://hdl.handle.net/1814/60404