Hide Techdirt is off for the long weekend! We'll be back with our regular posts tomorrow.

Honda Just Declared War On 3D Printer Makers Community

from the naughty-parts dept

It’s been a bit since we’ve talked about 3D printing, which I mostly took to mean that the world realized that there was no massive threat here and that we all collectively decided to make this a non-controversy. Early on there was some noise made about larger companies viewing the ability for the public to manufacture certain things at home with these printers being a copyright, patent, or trademark concern. And sure, there was some of that. Especially when it came to guns. But, by and large, 3D printing has become a full on thing for hobbyists and maker communities.

Perhaps one of the widest applications of 3D printing has been in the automotive parts space. There are plenty of sites where you can get print files for auto parts, and some car manufacturers have actually gone ahead and released those files to those sites themselves. Or, if you’re Honda, apparently, you decided that all of this is trademark infringement and shotgun-blast takedown requests to all the 3D print sites you can find.

Recently, I noticed a part that I made for my Honda Accord was removed from Printables, the newly rebranded 3D printing repository offered by Prusa. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason for it, but I didn’t think anything else about it…until reports of a mass deletion started popping up on Reddit.

“I can confirm to you that we have received a letter from a lawyer representing Honda, informing us that we were required to remove any model which used ‘Honda’ in the listing, the model itself, or one of several trademarks/logos also associated with Honda,” a Prusa spokesperson told The Drive in an email. “This will also be related to the naming of the files it self (sic), as for Honda this would be considered as a violation of their trademark/patents.”

As you often find the moment trademark law is mentioned in one of these disputes, the source post from The Drive falls all over itself to mention that Honda must enforce its trademarks or risk losing them. That is only as true as a nuance-free, single sentence about trademark law could possibly be, of course. Honda does have to enforce its trademarks… when there are instances of public confusion as to the source of products. That isn’t what’s happening here. By and large, every one of these files that is being taken down is including Honda trademarks merely as descriptions of what cars the part is going to work with. Using logos and such is likely a valid concern, but that isn’t the same as file names and descriptions.

Honda hit several other sites with the same takedown requests. And, because this is all monumentally stupid, what gets taken down and what doesn’t appears to directly relate to the order in which words in the description are used.

A lot of it comes down to wording. Some files that were taken down were named something along the lines of “Honda Civic Cup Holder,” whereas others were titled similar to the likeness of “Cup Holder for Honda Civic.” The order of that wording matters and could be the reason Honda responded in the way it did, and it’s why Prusa obliged by taking down all items that referenced the Honda brand.

As with all great comedy, there is logic in there… but that logic is petty and dumb. Prusa thinks similarly, claiming that it’s reaching out to other manufacturers to help them see that there is no threat here, only an opportunity to drive more car sales given that customers can have ready access to replacement parts should they break down.

The comments on the post drive home the downside for Honda, as well. The most poingant of them was probably, “Time to start using torrent files again.” Or, hey, maybe Honda could back off this desire for total control a tad and embrace the maker community instead, since they’re going to get their 3D print files one way or the other.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: honda

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Honda Just Declared War On 3D Printer Makers Community”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

As you often find the moment trademark law is mentioned in one of these disputes, the source post from The Drive falls all over itself to mention that Honda must enforce its trademarks or risk losing them.

And in response, I quote Judge John V. Parker, ENGINEERED MECH. SERV. v. APPLIED MECH. TECHNOLOGY, 584 F. Supp. 1149 – Dist. Court, MD Louisiana 1984

The owner of a mark is not required to constantly monitor every nook and cranny of the entire nation and to fire both barrels of his shotgun instantly upon spotting a possible infringer.

PaulT (profile) says:

“A lot of it comes down to wording. Some files that were taken down were named something along the lines of “Honda Civic Cup Holder,” whereas others were titled similar to the likeness of “Cup Holder for Honda Civic.””

I’m not going to defend these kinds of things but that… makes some sense if you are being anal and petty about it. The wording has slightly different implication, so it’s understandable in that context if you’re going after one and not the other.

I’m no fan of such silliness, but if the attack is on certain wording rather than the concept of 3D printing as a whole or trying to claim that people printing their own instead of paying a 5000% markup should be outlawed, I’m actually fine with this. It’s dumb, but it’s easy to avoid if such a clear convention is set as to how things should be named.

Bruce C. says:

Re: Wording...

Now if only the site had taken the time to review the wording themselves instead of taking the easy way out filtering for “Honda”.

To be fair to the site, if they aren’t geo-blocking countries outside the US, they really have no way to verify the details of trademark law in all the other countries. Are there any countries out there that require DMCA-like takedowns for trademarks or other types of IP?

Yes, I Know I`m Commenting Anonymously says:

Takedown notice

Dear Honda (TM),

Thank you for your DMCA copyright takedown notice for trademark – and patent infrigement.

We have looked at your trademark claims and have concluded that all the files mentioned are ‘after market’ parts, intended for use with your cars. Not for use with cars from other manufacturers nor for cars from ‘look alike’ manufacturers. Please explain where the public get confused about which cars these parts are for!

Regarding the patent violations: Please indicate which patents are infringed by which files. This way we can verify your claims and inform the uploaders correctly.

The STL site.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t get the geo-blocking other countries claim. Its meaningless. Having a website that can be viewed in other countries doesn’t matter for a website hosted in the US for a US corporation run by US persons. A small company like this wouldn’t have french executives to arrest.

No, the cogent complaint is that the company is founded in Prague, Czech Republic. Therefore, US law likely isn’t controlling on how Printables operates. Czech Republic law is, which is generally aligned with EU copyright law. Under EU copyright directives, aftermarket parts would not be covered by copyright, trademarks can not be used to prevent you from factually identifying a trademarked product, and patent claims should be supported by references to the actual patents.

So really, I think most of the commentary is applicable to Eu law, outside the assumption that the “takedown notice” described was a DMCA takedown notice, given the standard usage. I read the source and it was still a bit unclear this was a cease and desist versus a DMCA claim.

The real issue is the assumption that such a response wouldn’t see a lawsuit claiming that the pushback was evidence of intent.

hegemon13 says:

Wording Order Does Matter...Sort Of

Although it sounds silly, the order of the words does matter from a legal perspective. In the US, at least, a trademark is a brand. There are all sorts of weirdness tied to that. For example, trademark guidance requires that the trademarked name be used as an adjective, not a noun, in the trademark owner’s marketing and communication materials. Doing this can help a company avoid losing their trademark if the public begins ubiquitously using the brand as a noun.

A similar issue exists for word order. If you look at Google’s trademark guidelines, for example, you can state that an app or device is compatible with a “smartphone with Android” or “mobile device with Android.” You cannot state that it is compatible with an “Android smartphone.” This is because, as mentioned above, “Android smartphone” suggest a phone that is directly associated with the Android brand, even though Google has nothing to do with the hardware. This is pretty much the exact same example as the Honda differentiation above. Their argument would be that “Honda Civic cup holder” suggests Honda branding for the model and could confuse users into believing it is provided by Honda.

Now, I don’t think Honda is really protecting trademarks. They are using them as an excuse to take down 3D printed parts. However, this isn’t some crazy distortion of trademark law. At least they are actually following trademark guidelines, and it’s pretty easy for users to work around to get their models back online under a non-infringing name.

Naughty Autie says:


My argument would be that “Honda Civic cup holder” means it’s a cup holder for that particular brand and model of car, nothing else. Especially since Honda don’t publish 3D printing files for people living below the breadline to be able to replace parts on their 5+-year-old vehicles. As for the ‘Android smartphone’ argument, that’s also ridiculous. The only way someone’s going to believe that a phone was made by Google (or Alphabet, whoever) is if you call it a Nexus smartphone. ‘Android smartphone’ is just a quicker way of saying ‘Android-powered smartphone’, nothing else.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...