Aug 29, 2018

IP protection in reverse

Companies often fight tooth and nail to have their intellectual property removed from websites offering it up for free. Film producers spend millions of pounds per year preventing pirates from distributing their films, music producers and artists decry torrent sites, and companies the world over litigate over the illegal display of their branding where it shouldn't be.

Defense Distributed, however, are fighting a very different fight. It's likely you've never heard of them: but you may have heard of what they have done. They are the company that has designed and distributed 3D-printer blueprints for guns. Defense Distributed even operates a "pay as you feel" purchase model for the blueprints, so theoretically users can obtain them for free.

The blueprints were first published in 2013, but were quickly removed after a court ordered that publishing models that can be downloaded and printed in to working firearms (including rapid-fire machine guns) was clearly a security risk: the so-called "Ghost Guns" would be completely untraceable.

Defense Distributed did not stop fighting to give away its intellectual property though, and in July of this year the US Department of Justice held that the blueprints were not a national security threat, illogical as that sounds. Within days the blueprints had been downloaded tens-of-thousands of times, and Washington state led 18 others in bringing legal proceedings against the US Government for its decision in an attempt to reinstate the ban and stop the giveaway.

Those states were (at least temporarily) successful. That has caused an interesting paradox: in 19 US states the blueprints are not available. In the remaining 31 they are. Defense Distributed is now circumventing the ban by selling the designs on flash-drives, that it will then deliver to the purchaser: again on a pay-as-you-feel model.

Defense Distributed is clearly intent on getting its IP out there for free. While almost every company determinedly and aggressively defends its IP, Defense Distributed seems to be alone in its attempts to circumvent a court-imposed ban in order to give it away for free.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or

in: Digital/Tech, EU/International

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