3D printing has raised some interesting challenges in the protection of intellectual property due to the technology’s ability to transform copyrighted designs into physical products. A recent development in tackling this problem head-on is Hasbro’s joint venture with Shapeways in launching ‘SuperFanArt’.
Hasbro is one of the world’s largest toy manufacturers, with brands such as Transformers, My Little Pony and Monopoly and Shapeways is the leading online marketplace for the public to upload, buy and create custom 3D printed products. The SuperFanArt website is innovative in that it grants a licence to fans inspired by Hasbro brands to create, showcase and sell their 3D printed designs on Shapeways, all with permission from Hasbro.
The project, which incorporates a type of crowdsourcing, has already made its debut, selling 3D printed versions of the globally successful line, My Little Pony. The SuperFanArt designs must be cleared with Hasbro to ensure they are not obscene, violent or hateful, but otherwise, the artists largely have free rein.
This is an interesting development for Hasbro in protecting its intellectual property and in creating new revenue streams. With 3D printers becoming smaller and more affordable, in the foreseeable future there may be a point where companies such as Hasbro only have to produce a limited number of products to test the market and sell kits which allow customers to print the goods in their homes. The challenge of counterfeit prevention will always remain but perhaps by granting access to their IP and taking a smaller slice of the pie, large manufacturers will continue to embrace 3D printing and by providing legal methods to create their products, it will hopefully make the public less prone to piracy.