Co-creation, commercialization and intellectual property - challenges with 3D printing


  • Rosa Maria Ballardini University of Lapland, Faculty of Law
  • Juho Lindman Gotehburg University/Chalmers, Department of Applied IT
  • Iñigo Flores Ituarte Aalto University, School of Engineering


3D printing (3DP) has high transformative potential as it is not only distinctive from other existing manufacturing techniques but also presents several previously unimaginable advantages. Its digital nature coupled with the availability of internet access offers the potential for radical decentralization of industrial production, as well as collaborative design of the artefacts produced. This important characteristic is advantageous not only to end users but also to commercial companies that are currently attempting to introduce this technique for manufacturing final products. One important advantage that companies could gain from this model is the possibility to engage in co-creation activities with the user community, and in this way benefiting from users’ contributions.

This article begins by presenting a well-studied example of an industry that relies upon co-creation models, the software industry, in order to highlight the possible legal challenges with a particular focus on intellectual property rights. The paper then goes on to investigate the potential IP implications of co-creation for companies operating in industry fields that heavily rely (or are planning to heavily rely) upon 3DP technology. These questions are addressed from multiple perspectives based on theoretical argumentation and empirical research (in the form of case study research) with relevant stakeholders. The paper concludes with some recommendations as to how companies could possibly engage in co-creation with the user community in the field of 3DP.

Keywords: Intellectual property rights; IP management; 3D printing; co-creation; commercialization; open source licensing

Author Biographies

Rosa Maria Ballardini, University of Lapland, Faculty of Law

Professor at Faculty of Law

Juho Lindman, Gotehburg University/Chalmers, Department of Applied IT

Associate senior lecturer at the Department of Applied IT at Gotehburg University/Chalmers. 

Iñigo Flores Ituarte, Aalto University, School of Engineering

Research Scientist and PhD candidate at the Aalto University in the Department of Mechanical Engineering






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