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.