When Clayton Christensen, professor at Harvard University, coined the phrase "disruptive technology", he was speaking of a process by which a product or service takes root in the bottom of a market and slowly rises, displacing established competitors (Disruptive Innovation). Enter 3D printing, a technology with endless potential, both good and bad. So what exactly is 3D printing? Michael Weinberg, in his article, aptly titled "It Will Be Awesome If They Don't Screw It Up", simply states that a 3D printer is "a machine that can turn a blueprint into a physical object." This is intriguing for a number of reasons: there is no supply chain required, there is no need for a team of researchers and developers, and no pesky lawmaking bodies to navigate. Herein lie the problem and the focus of our paper: 3D printing could be an intellectual property nightmare. .
3D printing, especially in regards to intellectual property law, poses a number of issues. It is important, therefore, to begin with an analysis of the potentially affected parties; first, the designers and technical minds behind this new technology. Second, the general public; they have the most to gain from 3D printing's introduction to the mainstream. Last are the copyright holders and those most directly affected by swift and relatively inexpensive recreation of their patented products. The first stakeholder group is, at the moment, the smallest of the three. Weinberg compares them to the "personal computing community of the early 1990s:" They are a relatively small, technically proficient group, all intrigued by the potential of new technology. They tinker with their machines, share their discoveries and creations, and are more focused on what happens after they achieve it. This is a troubling statement. What we have here is a stakeholder group that is obviously forward thinking, as this technology would not arise without a great many innovative minds.