Does 3-D Printing Make It Easier to Break the Law?

We asked a lawyer about the legal implications

Jewelry and 3-D printing are already cozy bedfellows. Big and small brands have embraced the DIY technology, and smart retailers are integrating industrial-grade printers into their back-room configurations.

But as 3-D printing becomes more ubiquitous in the industry, we wondered if there were any legal red flags designers should keep in mind when creating molds and jewelry. We asked attorney Rania Sedhom, managing partner of New York City–based firm Sedhom & Mayhew—which represents BaubleBar and jewelry designer John Brevard—to shed some light on the subject. 

Courtesy Alissia Melka-Teichroew

3-D-printed jewelry by Alissia Melka-Teichroew

JCK: Why are 3-D printing and jewelry natural companions?
Rania Sedhom: 
The technology already has the capability to complement a designer’s jewelry manufacturing [processes]. Moreover, jewelry is relatively small in size compared to other fashion items. Jewelry designers…have an opportunity to try 3-D printing without sacrificing too much space.

JCK: What are the major legal issues pertaining to 3-D design and fashion/jewelry that retailers and designer should be
aware of?   
Sedhom: One of the main issues that I discuss with my clients who utilize 3-D printers is design ownership. For example, if I purchase a platinum ring with mini diamonds from my favorite jewelry store, tweak it ever so slightly by using tanzanite instead of diamonds, and then print it (or have it printed), whose design is that?

JCK: Under what circumstances would a designer working with a 3-D printer be breaking the law?  
Sedhom: Extrapolating on the above example, if I’m a designer who sees a bespoke piece of jewelry at a luxury jewelry purveyor, and I become overly inspired by that piece and create one with my logo—and the design was substantially similar to the extent that it’s confusing—I’ve broken the law. The 3-D printer will make it easier for me to do that.

JCK: What other legal issues/nuances should designers working with 3-D be aware of?  
Sedhom: As designers become more adept at using 3-D printing, it will have an impact on the environment because it produces less waste. That, over time, may subject designers not embracing the technology (and thereby not reducing their carbon footprint) to a tax.

JCK Magazine Editor