While perhaps not the most common of news topics here, 3D printing has come up before. These machines are able to build complex structures out of different materials, including plastics and metal, from designs a user can create or find online. Now those online databases may be limited as a patent was recently granted that could be used to add DRM to these files, as New Scientist reports.
The patent is for a system that would give 3D printers the ability to check for an authorization code in the design file, before printing it. It may be worth noting though that the company that filed for the patent, Intellectual Ventures, does not manufacture 3D printers and is what some would describe as a patent troll. For those hoping the patent is struck-down, there may be a way because its wording would have it applied to many computerized manufacturing methods, which may already have a similar and previously patented technology.
Regardless of what happens with this patent, the concern over the piracy of designs for 3D printers is going to grow as costs for the devices drop and they enter the consumer market. Some system to protect copyrighted or patented designs may be needed, but it should be careful to not limit the capability of an almost limitless device.