It was recently blogged about US law and 3d printing, after reading the entire paper I had two questions, both of which i emailed the writer, hopefully I will get a response soon. Those questions were about copyright vs patent in the law. specifically if someone posted a design somewhere i.e.thingiverse and then later a company filed for a patent for the same device, and received the patent, would it supersede the copyright or would the posting of the device automatically invalidate the patent due to not being unique or original.
After pondering this for a bit something else came to me, the copyright's that are put on things in thingiverse are (other than as a record) worthless, they have no real meaning since copyright cannot and should not be applied to physical objects, and we as makers do NOT want to change that.
think about what it would do. right now a patent has a very short shelf life of about 12 years (i believe though for some reason 7 seems to come to mind) but a copyright is life plus 90 years or so!!!!
companies have been trying to get patent length extended for years and they have also tried to apply copyright law to patentable objects, so far thankfully none of these have panned out for them.
now, this doesn't mean that i think people should stop posting things or putting a gpl license on them, on the contrary, if i understand patent law then we need to post MORE things, the more we can prove non patentable the better. But also note. once something is posted it cant be patented ever, even by the original poster.
years ago back when i was a kid my uncle made a gold panning device, he made the mistake of selling a few of them before he patented it. results: patent rejected, item already exists for sale.
now, I have no references to quote and IANAL and neither do i play one on TV so don't take any of this as legal advice. not that any of it was actually intended as advice, just as a HMM moment.