Discussions about copyright or patent infringement related to 3D printing often revolve around the idea of individuals stealing designs from corporations.
A very interesting article regarding the unavoilable discussion of intellectual property rights and 3D manufacturing - as long as 3D scanning and 3D printing mainly "occured" in an industrial production environment the playground more or less was well defined. With the growing distribution of hardware and software solutions (especially when it comes to 3D scanning) to end consumers it´s getting more and more obvious that it´s going to get a lot harder to protect or control objects. After the (still ongoing) war between media comapanies against their once beloved end consumers as well as new business companies (e.g. Google) a new frontier will rise - but this time the stakes are even higher since the size of the content market compared to the market size of industrial production/physical objects is like picturing a sand grain next to a desert.
Although the complexity of laws regarding "objects" is a lot higher - all key parts of intellectual poperty rights come together in a quite challenging mix that has to be sorted out: copyright - patent - trade mark/trade dress...
The article cites Michael Weinberg (VP Public Knowledge) who published two very interesting ebooks - both are well written and I promise you will not be endangered to fall asleep should you decide to read them - in case one book is enough for you I recommend to go with the first: