Surge in Patent Applications Related to 3D Printing: Is Yours One of Them?

July 26, 2017
Post by Jonathan L. Kennedy

The USPTO recently released statistics that over 8,000 patent applications were filed in 2016 related to 3D printing (additive manufacturing). Some of the interesting 3D printing inventions that have been subject to publicity include,prosthetic hands and fingers for children without fingers, three-dimensional bioprinting of human-compatible vascularized tissue developed by graduate students at Harvard, and a house that was 3D printed in 24 hours. Clearly the scope is about as broad as one can imagine.  Similarly, suitable IP protection related to 3D printing can also vary and be broad. The IP surrounding 3D printing is certainly not just patents.  While the USPTO’s statistics do not differentiate between utility patents and design patents, both types of patents should be a consideration for inventions related to 3D printing.  Copyright is another example of an important tool that can be useful for protecting 3D printing products and services.  For example, the digital print files that provide the building instructions for a 3D printer may be protected under the copyright laws.  Thus, if you are using 3D printing in your business, talk with your IP attorney regarding what protections may be best for your innovation and business.


Jonathan Kennedy is an Intellectual Property Attorney in the Biotechnology/Chemical Patent Practice Group at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. For additional information please visit or contact Jonathan directly via email at



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