New technology exists that allows you to print out a new prosthetic limb! It’s called 3-D printing — the next big thing in manufacturing, and the next big thing in intellectual property disputes.

The new technology makes it possible to create an item by simply downloading a design file and printing it out as a plastic object.  This also will likely trigger conflicts surrounding copyrights, trademarks, and patents.  The average person using a 3-D printer at home seemed until recently like far-off science fiction, but it won’t be long now before widespread use of the technology leads to litigation, reports Lisa Shuchman in Corporate Counsel.

The price continues to decrease rapidly, and a good machine that a few years ago cost as much as $10,000 can now be purchased for less than $2,000. Staples this month started selling one model— the Cube printer—for $1,300.

No longer merely a tool to create toys and gadgets, they are being used to make functional prosthetics, medical devices, and prototypes for aerospace, automotive, and other industries. And this month President Obama identified different applications of the technology as part of a $200 million federally funded competition to create three manufacturing institutes across five federal agencies: the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Commerce, along with NASA and the National Science Foundation.  Wow! I’m heading to Kinko’s!