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It’s been a while since we’ve talked about 3D printing, which I mostly took to mean that the world realized there wasn’t a massive threat here and we all collectively decided to make it a non-controversy. At first there was some noise about big companies considering the possibility of the public making certain things at home, with these printers being a copyright, patent or trademark concern. And of course there was part of that. Especially when it came to guns. But, overall, 3D printing has become an activity in its own right for hobbyists and maker communities.
Perhaps one of the widest applications of 3D printing has been in automotive parts. There are many sites where you can get print files for auto parts, and some car manufacturers have even decided to publish these files on these sites themselves. Or, if you’re Honda, apparently you’ve decided this is all trademark infringement and shotgun takedown requests to every 3D printing site you can find.
Recently I noticed that a part I made for my Honda Accord had been removed from Printables, the new 3D printing repository offered by Prusa. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason, but I didn’t think of anything else…until reports of a massive deletion started popping up on Reddit.
“I can confirm that we received a letter from a lawyer representing Honda, advising us that we should remove any model that used ‘Honda’ in the listing, the model itself or any of the many marks/logos as well associated with Honda,” a Prusa spokesperson told The Drive in an email. “This will also relate to the naming of the files themselves (sic), as for Honda this would be considered a of their trademark/patents.”
As you often find the moment trademark law is mentioned in one of these disputes, the source post for The Drive falls on its own to mention that Honda must assert its brands or risk losing them. This is only true to the extent that a single, unqualified sentence on trademark law could be, of course. Honda needs to enforce its brands…when there are instances of public confusion as to the source of the products. That’s not what’s happening here. By and large, each of these files that are removed include Honda brands simply as descriptions of the cars the part will work with. Using logos and the like is probably a valid concern, but it’s not the same as filenames and descriptions.
Honda has hit several other sites with the same withdrawal requests. And, because it’s all monumentally stupid, what gets deleted and what doesn’t seem directly related to the order in which the words of the description are used.
Much depends on the wording. Some files that were removed were named something along the lines of “Honda Civic Cup Holder”, while others were titled similarly to “Cup Holder for Honda Civic”. The order of this phrasing matters and could be why Honda responded the way it did, and that’s why Prusa obliged by removing all Honda branding.
Like any great comedy, there’s a logic to it…but that logic is petty and stupid. Prusa thinks similarly, saying it is reaching out to other manufacturers to help them see that there is no threat here, only an opportunity to generate more car sales given that customers may have easy access to spare parts in case of breakdown.
Comments on the post also point out Honda’s downsides. Probably the most poignant of them was “It’s time to start using torrent files again”. Or, hey, maybe Honda could back off that desire for full control a bit and embrace the maker community instead, because they’re going to get their 3D print files one way or another.
Filed Under: 3d printing, auto parts, brand