The Patentability of Digital “Manufactures” as 3D Printing Expands into the 4D World

Laura E. Powell · 19 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. 1

Abstract

Technological advances have always been supported by a robust patent system that encourages disclosure of inventions by providing protection to the inventor. Society has benefitted from this system, which has relied on a definition of “manufacture” that has essentially remained unchanged for over 200 years. However, with the advent of digital technologies, and in particular Four-Dimensional Printing, courts have been inconsistent in evaluating the patentability of such inventions. Recent Supreme Court and Federal Circuit decisions have indicated that some software may be eligible for patent protection. This is particularly important for 4D printing wherein the manifestation of the printed product is inherently connected to the software. This Note explains why the patent system should recognize CAD files, particularly as they relate to 4D printing, as patentable subject matter under Section 101 of the Patent Act of 1952.