It's no secret in corporate boardrooms that 3d scanning and 3d printing present both a challenge and an opportunity.
If high profile characters such as Pokemon can be created as toys without the consent of the company which owns them, they stand to lose serious revenue. On the other hand, if brands and companies can figure out a way to leverage the freelance designers creating new versions of their characters, an entirely new source of revenue presents itself.
This morning, Disney announced it's taking a significant step to guard against unauthorized use of its intellectual property. Think Cinderalla and Micky Mouse.
“It can be difficult for a company distributing collectibles and other 3-D objects, such as plastic figurines of movie and animated film characters, to prevent unlicensed copying,” Disney said in a recent patent application. “This can be an even larger problem for companies that want to protect products that are made through a 3-D printing process.”
The patent that Disney filed is for a reflective substance that can be placed on it's authorized merchandise, which will deter 3d scanning of those projects. A 3d scan can easily be turned into a 3d print for example.
"The scan-protected exterior surfaces are either light absorbing or reflect light in unconventional directions,” according to the application.
A famous example of copyright infringement came when a 3d printing service was offering unauthorized Hasbro designs on its website a few years ago. Hasbro eventually worked with the designers and website involved to create a sanctioned set of 3d printed characters.
Disney's consumer products and Interactive Media department brought in over $1.1 billion last year, and now a company renowned for it's innovation will be tested yet again.