3D-printing is gradually becoming widely accessible to the population, and with accessibility come enthusiasm, participation, and ingenuity. Its continued development reflects a potential surge in technological advancement, bestowing on any person with a computer and the right software the ability to design and create. So far, the utilitarian benefits of designs such as blueprints, schematics, and CAD files have always been safeguarded from copyright over-protection through the doctrine of copyright severability. However, the doctrine is applied inconsistently across different circuits and different factual scenarios. This inconsistency can chill innovation by making it impossible to distinguish aesthetic designs protected by copyright from functional designs that are not. Thus, copyright severability does not do enough to protect innovation as 3D-printing begins to make product design more accessible to the general public. A more suitable solution may lie in the abstraction-filtration-comparison test from the software context of copyright infringement.
Alan Fu, Copyright Severability: The Hurdle Between 3D-Printing and Mass Crowdsourced Innovation, 15 Duke Law & Technology Review 84-101 (2017)