Skip over navigation

Additive Manufacturing Partnership Meeting

Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for IP and Deputy USPTO Director Teresa Stanek Rea

January 23, 2013

Additive Manufacturing Partnership Meeting

USPTO Headquarters, Alexandria, Va.

Remarks as Prepared


Thank you and good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our first Additive Manufacturing Partnership meeting. We look forward to many more. Today’s event will serve as an exchange of information about additive manufacturing—the technology itself and the role of patents in that technology. In addition to serving as a forum for users sharing ideas, experiences, and insights in this emerging field, we hope that today’s meeting will elicit discussions on how the USPTO can improve and expand its relationship with individual users. We also hope to establish contacts for technical training programs for examiners, help applicants better understand the USPTO processes to enhance the quality of patent applications, and advance the continuing development and use of additive manufacturing technologies. 

The USPTO and the Department of Commerce have played a key role in creating jobs and spurring economic growth by advancing the administration’s strategic plan for innovation and supporting entrepreneurship. The USPTO is deeply committed to equipping the entrepreneurs and small businesses with the tools and resources they need to protect their IP and navigate the patent system. In order to support the president’s commitment to promoting advanced manufacturing, the USPTO is also participating in the Office of Manufacturing Policy to help bolster IP by putting Americans back to work making products domestically to be sold globally, boosting the nation’s share of manufactured exports.

We are committed to supporting the enduring American spirit of innovation—a spirit that continues to unleash new breakthroughs, new markets and new economic opportunities. So, let’s take a quick look at how additive materials technology has contributed to today’s world of innovation.

Additive technology has led to advancements in rapid prototyping and manufacturing of both simple and complex mechanical and electrical devices. These devices can be as simple as an ornamental figurine, as complex as a gearing system or electronic device or as detailed as dental appliances and fitted prosthetic devices for the human body. Additive technology has further led to advancements in material sciences required to rapid prototype and manufacture end products, which is proving to be useful across many different technologies. These materials include polymers, plastics, resins, metals, compositions and compounds as base materials which can be printed, laser effected, sputtered, or deposited onto a surface to form a useful end product 3D structure. Sort of like a "Star Trek replicator” for the real-world if you will. It has also led to advancements in the software, hardware, and machines required to rapidly prototype and manufacture end products useful across multiple technologies.

Additive technology takes full advantage of newly developed graphical interfaces, 3D modeling software, and specific process machines allowing a 3D structure to be formed where multiple, more expensive machines would have been required in the past. While the potential for legitimate uses of this technology is breathtaking, such as the production of custom prosthetic limbs at a fraction of the cost of standard manufacturing, additive manufacturing also presents a number of potential challenges.

Additive manufacturing technology permits production of extraordinarily accurate duplicates of objects that are the subject of IP protections. The entry barrier for infringers is modest, especially as technology improves and prices fall. As a result, we should anticipate that this will be a growing challenge for right holders and law enforcement. The portability of the additive manufacturing machines could lead to more in-place production, lessening cross-border traffic. However, on balance it seems more likely that commercial-level ventures will remain in countries where it is difficult for U.S. law enforcement to reach them and continue to ship products across borders. 

The legal, business and technological environment of additive manufacturing is rapidly evolving. As in other creative and innovative industries, since digital files and objects are easy to copy, distribute, and pirate, the emerging online market in which 3D entrepreneurs are entering and competing should be closely monitored. The USPTO will continue to monitor these challenges and work with our IP partners and stakeholders to develop effective solutions that not only encourage growth in the industry, but offer strong IP protections.  

Now I would like to introduce you to Joyce Ward. Joyce is the coordinator of our Office of Education and Outreach and is going to give you a sneak peek at a new series we have been working on with NBC Learn called “The Science of Innovation.” This particular segment will provide you with a great visual reference on just how exciting the world of additive manufacturing is. Then later on, be sure to check out some of the great on-site demonstrations provided by our guest presenters. This is a great opportunity to see the technology first-hand. It truly is inspiring.

Thank you all for joining us today.    

# # #

United States Patent and Trademark Office
This page is owned by Office of the Chief Communications Officer.
Last Modified: 9/16/2013 3:22:37 PM