Technology is both personalizing and automating fashion quicker than ever before. Especially as the industry adapts to the ever changing conditions and uncertainty that’s come with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with rapid innovation comes the emergence of new issues. One technological innovation in particular has gained tremendous popularity over the years and is rapidly changing fashion as we know it: 3D Printing.
3D printer technology opens up a new door for creative exploration and opportunities for fashion designers and producers. It allows for experimentation with various patterns and designs before spending more significant resources to bring a product to life. Additionally, this approach helps to limit textile waste, making it a more sustainable option for garment sampling. However, as the 3D printing industry's footprint has grown, we've begun to see issues regarding copyright, patents, and trademarks of products and prints.
Enforcing Intellectual Property Rights in Fashion
If consumers want something badly enough, they’ll find a way to get their hands on it. Take a moment to think about movie and music piracy. In the fashion industry, the most straightforward case for a similar type of crime would be the illegal use of a brand logo. Once consumers get their hands on a brand’s tech pack digital files – the electronic blueprints that could become 3D prints through additive manufacturing – they can easily replicate and copy logos, designs, and patterns whether or not they’re protected under intellectual property rights.
Several legal cases are already on the books regarding 3D printing and intellectual property rights. Concerned designers should take do the research and develop a deeper understanding of how to effectively protect your designs and business.
3D Printing Sparks a Shift in Fashion Production & Labor
Along with copyright infringement, 3D fashion design printing may also affect a loss of garment manufacturing jobs as the process becomes less labor intensive and more machine reliant. However, removing this human element raises potential problems like design quality control and limited materials resulting from printing waste. Much like other industries, fashion must decide at what point the risks outweigh the benefits of relying on a 3D printer to manufacture products.
How will top of the line brands work to prevent potential or existing customers from duplicating their company brand marks using low cost, high quality 3D printers?
While we have years before just anybody can get their hands on high performing 3D printers, it’s essential to understand how quickly these tools could change fashion's landscape five, ten, and even fifteen years from now. Forward-looking brands should prepare to protect the integrity of their label against those who might misuse this tech for intellectual property theft in-house, in-store, and in the courtroom.