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London - Additive manufacturing technologies have the potential to radically change the way many industries work, which will have huge implications for businesses, according to a report published by global law firm, Mayer Brown.

These technologies, which include 3D printing, join thin layers of solid and liquid material to build up a real, three-dimensional object from a digital model. The market, valued at more than £130 million in 2012, could transform manufacturing, the logistics industry and the valuation of assets. Mayer Brown, however, warns that these technologies could also pose serious legal and reputational risks for many companies, investors and brand owners across the supply chain.

Issues in the areas of insurance, intellectual property (IP) and product liability are yet to be tested by the existing legal and regulatory framework. For example, businesses could find that data file misuse is difficult to enforce and product owners may have to consider their patent strategies across multiple geographies in order to preserve their market share.

Peter Dickinson, Head of Corporate at Mayer Brown, said: “The opportunities for additive manufacturing are clear to see: speed to market, rapid prototyping, on-demand production and consequent economic growth in those countries from which creative and innovative solutions originate. But the challenges need careful consideration."

The rise of desktop 3D printers could leave the toy, fashion and jewellery industries exposed to IP, piracy and counterfeiting infringement. In addition, amid growing concern over access to design files for dangerous objects, it may be necessary to introduce licensing for the sale of online designs in order to protect companies and designers.

The report also highlights the significant investment potential of the additive manufacturing industry. As seen recently, mergers point to further growth and the demand for machines from small businesses opens up new opportunities for crowd sourcing as an investment route. With few physical assets, less machinery and smaller premises, these businesses will need to be structured and valued differently.

Mark Prinsley, Head of Intellectual Property at Mayer Brown, said: "It is likely that additive manufacturing will further strengthen the power of internet distribution brands and channels at the expense of the originators of novel products."