New Patent Aims to Prevent 3D Printers From Creating “Restricted Items”
by JG Vibes
October 14, 2012
Recently there has been a great deal of controversy over 3D printers and their ability to bypass intrusive government laws and regulations, specifically in the realm of firearms. It seems that the establishment has already been hard at work developing ways in which they can keep a lid on this technology and prevent it from being truly useful to the general population.
As I discussed last week the goal of restricting this technology is to keep industries cartelized and prevent the average person from gaining too much independence through these devices. A new patent, issued this week by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office titled ‘Manufacturing control system’ aims to do just that. Although it was issued this week it was actually filed way back in 2007, so it seems that they have working on this for some time. The patent describes a system where the owners of 3D printers or similar machines will have to obtain authorization before they are allowed to print certain items.
The patent is registered to Intellectual Ventures, a patent-trolling company which is currently hoarding over 40,000 patents and is run by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold. The primary goal of the system is to prevent people from printing objects using designs they haven’t paid for, and establishing what they call “object production rights.”
Michael Weinberg is a staff lawyer at the nonprofit Public Knowledge who reviewed the patent for technology review and described it as very broad, saying that “You load a file into your printer, then your printer checks to make sure it has the rights to make the object, to make it out of what material, how many times, and so on.”
According to Torrentfreak “a digital fingerprint of ‘restricted items’ will be held externally and printers will be required to compare the plans of the item they’re being asked to print against those in a database. If there’s a match, printing will be disallowed or restricted. Japanese rights holders are already pushing an ISP level version of the same kind of system to nuke unauthorized music uploads.”
Earlier this year the Pirate Bay announced that they were going to start featuring 3D print designs on their website, predicting that someday people would be able to print out anything from cars to food. They commented on their blog that “Data objects are able (and feasible) to become physical. We believe that things like three dimensional printers, scanners and such are just the first step. We believe that in the nearby future you will print your spare parts for your vehicles. You will download your sneakers within 20 years.”
The Pirate Bay also believes that copying objects from digital to 3 dimensional form is going to be the next revolution in copying and literally bring a whole new dimension to the battle over intellectual property laws, and they are right.
If given the ability to flourish and develop in every way possible, the millions of people who end up using this technology will be able to create amazing things that could reshape this world for the better in a short amount of time. So far, this technology has been used to replace bones and body parts in people, creating exoskeletons for children with congenital illnesses in order to help them walk, and it is even said that someday people will have the ability to print working human organs through cheap home devices. These are the kinds of wonderful things that the patent would be capable of preventing, because it even covers edible substances and biological matter like skin, for example.
This kind of freedom and decentralization for manufacturing is a huge threat to the control structure, and many well-established industries threaten to lose their businesses to your average entrepreneur on the street. What we are seeing here is a traditional case of the candlemaker trying to prevent the discovery of electric light.
The good news about this patent is that it is just an invention right now; there is nothing forcing any of these companies to use it. However, we already have mercantilist businesses pressuring government to stifle their competition, as we see with intellectual property and top-down regulation.
Since 3D printers are promising to shake up the marketplace in a way that has not been seen in generations, it seems probable that these kinds of restrictions would be forced on the general public through legislation. Luckil, as with the current intellectual property battles, the technology seems to be many steps ahead of the people who are trying to keep a lid on it, but to stay ahead it will be necessary for people to resist these suffocating policies in every way possible.
J.G. Vibes is the author of an 87 chapter counter culture textbook called Alchemy of the Modern Renaissance and host of a show called Voluntary Hippie Radio. He is also an artist with an established record label and event promotion company that hosts politically charged electronic dance music events. You can keep up with his work, which includes free podcasts, free e-books & free audiobooks at his website www.aotmr.com.