3D Printing for most people is a hobby, a way to turn something digital, into a physical 3D object. You may give prints to friends and family for presents or just present them proudly on a shelf. Either way, in this context it’s hard to see any harm.
Recently Honda started enforcing the copyright of their logo in the 3D community. While they’re perfectly entitled to do so, most other automakers and brands, appear to be very passive about the use of their logos on 3D models.
Generally, if someone is going to print your logo, that’s a good thing, they’re a fan of your brand and want to show it off. This is similar to people taking official company logos and printing them on apparel like T-shirts and hats on services like Etsy. Naturally, there is a conflict when this work crosses over from personal use to profit.
As a general rule, most prints are done for personal use, but there are certainly enterprising operators that set up online stores, take orders and print on demand for money. At that point, you really need to be seeking copyright or trademark approval or printing just original 3D models.
While most 3D prints would not be confused for official Honda-produced items, I could see an argument for brands wanting to remove 3D Printing files from online marketplaces if it competes directly with products they sell.
There’s a great write-up over on TheDrive.com where they cite specific examples of Honda 3D print files being removed from services like Printables. There are also multiple reports from users on Reddit.
All models referencing the word “Honda” posted prior to March 30, 2022, were seemingly removed from Printables without warning.
Another 3D Print file marketplace, Prusa actually confirmed to TheDrive that they had received a takedown request from Honda’s legal team to remove all 3D models that included the word ‘Honda’. If you search the site today, there are 0 results for the search term.
In January of this year, 3D Printing service Statasys published a case study about Honda, detailing how the company was not only leveraging 3D printing for prototypes, but also vehicle accessories.
While Honda is certainly free to do as they wish, they are essentially inconveniencing the 3D Printing community, rather than eliminating it. It doesn’t take a Google wizard to find many sites still offering Honda prints and if Honda is serious about it, they’ll now need to invest resources in playing whack-a-mole across the internet, not a great use of their time or money.
I hope there’s a way where we can find a happy medium here like personal use is fine and authorised, which would support fans of the brand printing as they wish, while commercial use would be restricted. Having a streamlined application for those wanting to print Honda-themed 3D prints, would also be helpful to cause, allowing Honda to approve specific items for use where they felt it didn’t compete with the brand and accessories for sale from Honda.