3D Printing Industry

Why Opening Up Intellectual Property is Great for Brands and Fans

Shapeways is truly a community centric company, serving hundreds of thousands of designers who have uploaded over 2 million 3D models to date. From the wonderful to the wondrous, Shapeways enables anyone to bring their ideas to life, whether solving problems or making products more personal.

Last week, 3D printing was on everybody’s minds when a designer’s right to create was taken away due to copyright laws. It brought up great discussions on where the technology stands when it comes to making designs based on popular culture.

Anything is possible with 3D printing, and over the last few years we’ve increasingly seen the technology  being used by fans to engage with beloved brands. Our work with Hasbro to create SuperFanArt enables fans of Hasbro brands to showcase their inspired artwork and sell their 3D printed designs on Shapeways under a Hasbro license. Hasbro became the first major global brand to open up its Intellectual Property to the design community, which is only made possible by Shapeways and 3D printing. Designers on SuperFanArt can now confidently sell fully licensed versions of their works. The community gets the ability to share their creations, Hasbro gets to engage with fans on a deeper level, both get a cut of sales, and no one gets sued.


Allowing fans to interpret their favorite brands in physical form legitimizes and elevates the culture of fan art and allows designers new freedom to create sought-after content. 3D printing is uniquely placed to bring these products into being, not just for figurines and toys, but also for mass customization of functional objects. We can’t wait to see more brands embrace this potential. Michael Weinberg, Vice President of Public Knowledge, put it best when he said, “It would be an enlightened move on the part of brands to work with designers instead of against them. It may, in fact, be easier to harness the collective creativity of designers than try to stop it”.

Not only does opening up IP enable brands to build stronger relationships with their fans, it helps them make better products. Bringing a product to market historically was no easy or cheap feat, requiring a lot of upfront capital to invest in market research, manufacturing and distribution. With 3D printing, you can go to market quickly and at a lower cost. So by enabling fans to legally access brand IP, they can create new derivative works and brands can start to see what the market wants before investing a ton up front. Brands can see what niche products could be successful and potentially get an early signal of what could be a runaway hit. 3D printing becomes the new marketing platform – a way to create a conversation between brands and customers.

Hasbro and several other brands are starting to pave the way for what will hopefully be a reinvention of intellectual property for physical products. We take intellectual property very seriously — both that of independent designers and major global brands. It’s critical that the individuals and teams behind products are rewarded for their creative efforts. While we respect the intellectual property of copyright holders, we are also community first. We do due diligence on every single takedown we get, inform users how to issue a counter DMCA if applicable, give a 24 hour warning, and offer to put them in touch with the other party.

Our vibrant, creative community and open platform grants us the leverage to bring big brands into the mix. We pledge to continue to push the boundaries of the law to benefit all creatives and fully encompass what is actually happening right here, right now.

Ultimately, we see 3D printing as a technology full of creativity and not about copyright infringement. With any new technology that’s democratizing access to a tool, infringement is possible, but what we’re enabling at Shapeways is a community in which innovation triumphs.


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