Existing products that are protected by patents or designs, for example, can also be manufactured using additive manufacturing processes (3D printing) as a supplement or alternative to previous manufacturing methods. Insofar as the existing protection of the product
on the technical function, which may be protected, for example, by a patent or utility model
and/or to the external design, which may be protected by a design,
the existing protection also covers the product manufactured by means of additive manufacturing processes.
Extension of protection not possible
An extension of protection is neither necessary nor possible here, because absolute novelty is required to obtain protection rights for technical inventions (patent and utility model) or for the external design of products (design). Due to the fact that the product already exists, has been produced in a conventional manufacturing process and is on the market, the novelty required for a patent or design is no longer given.
Patent application for new manufacturing process
For an extension of the protection to the new manufacturing process for the production of the product by means of additive manufacturing, a patent application for the additive manufacturing process can be considered in principle. However, it is a prerequisite that the additive manufacturing process used to manufacture the product is new and inventive compared to known processes. If an existing product is merely manufactured using already known additive manufacturing processes, there will usually be at least a lack of inventive step, which is why it will not be possible to obtain a legally valid property right for the additive manufacturing process.
If, on the other hand, a new manufacturing process for the additive manufacturing of the product is developed which is not obvious to a person skilled in the art, a patent application can be filed for this. In the first instance, the new additive manufacturing process for manufacturing the already known product can be claimed as the object of protection. If the patent is granted, the direct process product, i.e. the product manufactured by the additive manufacturing process, is also covered by protection.
Do you have any questions for patent attorney Dr. Stefan Gehrsitz, or would you like more in-depth advice?