3D printing in China

1 January 2015 - 31 December 2016

Awarded to: Dr  James Griffin

Research partners: University of Nottingham Ningbo China, Durham University School of Law, the University of Sussex, and the Chinese University of Political Science and Law.

Funding awarded to Exeter £ 97,000

Sponsor(s): AHRC-Newton Fund

About the project

The main research questions:
1.     How can automated licensing platform framework to enable 3D printing companies to licence 3D printed content and files in new ways? Examples would be online databases and/or the printing of 3D computer game characters.
2.     What is an effective technological solution to online licensing of 3D content?
3.     What is the impact of such a system upon copyright law, in particular copyright law in China and copyright law internationally?
4.     How will this pioneer the development of law that is digital in nature?



The research design and methodology:

The research design will directly address the policy regulation and licensing strand with an emphasis upon how 3D printing file protocols could be used to identify content, entities and licenses. This will be with an aim to utilise automated modes of exchange rights information to enable greater interoperability between content and different rights industries. Innovation in the making and dissemination of 3D files and 3D printed works has become constrained by the lack of clear rules with regard to the licensing of those files and works. This international collaboration is designed to establish:

  • A viable, technical and operational online licensing system
  • A workable legal framework for IP licensing

This will be achieved by:

  • Empirical interviews with 3D companies by one research team, alongside
  • A placement and case study with a 3D printing company

The results will be disseminated through a workshop, roundtable and publications.

The originality and innovativeness of the project:

We are in contact with 3D printing companies who wish to develop a new means of creating and disseminating 3D printed content utilising their 3D printing systems and to capture new business opportunities. However, to date they have been limited in their opportunities to do so because of the complex legal licensing environment and the lack of appropriate digital licensing standards. We are a group of specialist academics who will apply our authoritative knowledge in areas such as IP Law, International Law and Contract law in order to facilitate them to license their 3D printed works. We can enable these companies to learn how to exploit their products.

In the UK, the relevant regulatory body called the Copyright Hub has set out a list of licensing standards to use in online licensing systems. We will explore the appropriateness of these guidelines in the development of the proposed licensing system in China. The proposed licensing system will benefit the companies in the development of their markets by being able to licence works in new ways, it would benefit the UK regulatory Copyright Hub in being able to find out how their system operates in practice both in the UK and in China. The proposed project would benefit our legal research into the application of such technical systems in practice and the consequent impact upon the law. China would benefit from our research because an online licensing system could reduce piracy and increase the possibilities of wealth creation through online creations. We will be able to suggest how the current complex legal framework could be considerably simplified using the Copyright Hub standards, and outlining the possibility of a single system of protection i.e. by a sui generis (unique) 3D printing IP right.