3D printing "choked" by IP: a designer complains, or is he just 'Teesing'?

"3D printing has stagnated" is Francis Bitonti's complaint in an interview with Dezeen. Bitonti, a designer, is heavily involved with 3D printing. Stagnation is is not very good news, but who is to blame? "Intellectual property" he says. Of course, thinks this Kat, who else could be to blame?

Bitonti thinks that "3D printing has just become incredibly stagnant" and adds that 3D-printing industry needed to open up its intellectual property so that the design and manufacturing community could help drive forward improvements. "The industry is just completely choked by intellectual property law right now" sums up his approach.

This Kat is very fond of those standing at the forefront of creativity and innovation, but cannot understand the discontent some of them express against intellectual property.

Mr Bitonti is, together with designer Michael Schmidt, behind one of the most iconic 3D printing fashion products, a gown for Ms Dita Von Teese (depicted right). Isn't IP a tool for the protection and/or commercialization of their efforts and creativity? 
3D printing "choked" by IP: a designer complains, or is he just 'Teesing'? 3D printing "choked" by IP: a designer complains, or is he just 'Teesing'? Reviewed by Nikos Prentoulis on Friday, July 10, 2015 Rating: 5


  1. Actually, if you read the transcript of the original interview, and not just the shrill summary at the top of the article, Bitonti's argument is a lot more nuanced than it initially appears.

    IP does not appear to be his biggest issue. It seems that, as a designer, he wants more sophisticated machines and materials that will enable him to create genuinely new things and realise his visions. Meanwhile, the industry has mostly been churning out what he describes as "tinker toys", in search of a profitable mass-market of consumers.

    Bitonti might be right. Perhaps there isn't a large enough market for consumer grade 3D printers. The falling fortunes of Makerbot might indeed be evidence of that.

    I understand him to be suggesting that opening up IP might boost innovation, and create new market opportunities for everyone's benefit. This is not such an outrageous proposition - it would not be much different to the strategy Elon Musk has taken with Tesla's patents.

  2. Would it be fair to say that it is fashionable to blame IP?

  3. No, it would rather be boring.

  4. Two rather painfully obvious things Mark:

    1) Eliminating patents (IP) will NOT boost innovation. There is NO single example of a modern advanced society that has drunk that kool-aid.

    2) Elon Musk's move was merely marketing hutzpah and worthless patents being flogged. His path is NOT one of great innovation.

    Other than that, you might be onto something. What that something is, is a bit of a mystery, but on something you do appear to be (you don't reside in Colorado, do you?).

  5. For Kool aid drinker consider <a href="https://books.google.nl/books?id=jEt3dWhdX_cC&dq=robert%20macfie&pg=PR5#v=onepage&q=robert%20macfie&f=false> 19th Century Netherlands</a>

  6. Meldrew,

    A delightful reach into history. Of course, there are other tomes concerning the desire to rid society of personal property for the betterment of all (basically, for the advancement of the commons).

    Those too, have failed to produce a modern advanced society.**

    ** I would argue that the Chinese are not an example of that philosophy. I have studied there, and I have found that there is NOT a more mercantile, and a more truly capitalistic people in the world, even if currently those people operate under a group-dictatorial-state-masquerading-as-a-communistic-nation. I would also point out that the Chinese are exhibiting the very same evolutionary climb up the "stronger-IP-rights" ladder that the U.S. itself climbed, starting out as a "Pirate" nation and embracing strong IP as a method to advance.

  7. Two even more painfully obvious things, Anonymous.

    1. Nobody - not I and not Bitonti - has even remotely suggested that patents should be eliminated. I am a patent attorney. I went into this profession because I believe in the value of the system. And now I am in it I have no intention of working on putting myself out of a job.

    2. You're wrong about Tesla. Unquestionably its move was calculated and self-serving. But its patents are only 'worthless' so long as nobody else wants to use the technology they cover. I think Musk is genuinely trying to kick-start a market that is currently virtually non-existent.

    'Opening up' IP is not the same thing as nullifying IP rights. Tesla didn't surrender their patents, they simply made licenses available on relatively favourable terms (although it remains to be seen what happens if a 'licensee' strays outside Musk's definition of 'good faith').

    The thing about 'open innovation' is that it is absolutely dependent on strong IP rights. Everybody participating needs to bring something to the table. Without systems for protecting IP it's just a free-for-all and, as you say, that does not favour innovation, it favours copycats. The Free Software Foundation won't admit it, but they'd be screwed without copyright. With no legal mechanism to enforce the GPL, rapacious commercial entities would just take what they want from the open source community, and give nothing back.

    Next time, try engaging your brain before putting fingers to keyboard, because you're coming across as an idiot with poor reading comprehension skills. It's probably just as well you don't put your real identity to your lightweight contributions. If you are a member of the IP professions, I pity your clients for having an advisor so lacking in strategic commercial nouse.

  8. Mark,

    You complain too much and about the wrong people. Your argument itself did NOT distinguish enough between open source with strong IP and the more conventional open source with weak IP.

    That is not my distinction - you aim your arrow at the wrong target. Your emotional outburst then captures your very complaint - but you are the perp, not I. A classic case of pointing a finger and having three point back at you.

    Anonymous at 5:26


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