The term “additive manufacturing” (colloquially often used synonymously with “3D printing”) refers to manufacturing processes in which material is applied layer by layer to a printing base resulting in three-dimensional objects. In contrast to subtractive manufacturing processes (e.g. milling, lathing, cutting, drilling), this does not assume an initial piece from which material is removed, but individual thin horizontal layers are built up (in an additive manner) on top of each other and are joined together to obtain the final workpiece. This is particularly advantageous for small quantities and complicated part geometries.
From a legal point of view, this subject area poses great challenges in so far as, in addition to all questions concerning the patentability of additive manufacturing processes, systems and materials, it also concerns the scope of possible protection for additively manufactured objects, not only from the point of view of patent law but also from the point of view of copyright or design law. Our patent attorneys having practical experience in this field provide competent advice: