The Legal Side of CAD-Data Protection: How to Protect Your IP with Legal Tech

Nowadays, high-tech companies and creative businesses have to deal with Intellectual Property risks on a daily basis due to intense information exchange during collaboration and cooperation. Digital transformation requires new approaches in the legal protection of design assets, creating demand for new technologies, like Legal Tech.

When creating a brand new design, one has to rely on people capable of actually making the stuff. This involves sharing your CAD files. And when doing this without continuous protection as part of design collaboration, outsourced manufacturing, or other technical business processes, it could become subject to unintended or illegitimate use that could have significant consequences to your business.

Imagine this: after putting an extreme amount of working hours into a new CAD design, you happen to share it with the wrong people. This will result in almost inevitable value loss because the moment when CAD files get stolen, the Genie is out of the bottle, not to mention the damage to your reputation.

One might argue that this would certainly not happen if you are careful about sending your files only to the right people, and with proper contracts signed. But the key part is that you simply can’t avoid sharing them. Not to mention the fact that there is fierce competition out there, and some competitors may do anything to get to your CAD files, even steal your employees.

Yet, here comes another problem: both a designing bureau and a freelance designer need to deliver their data to the people who manufacture it. If you have a trusted manufacturer, your risks are significantly reduced, though they are far from being completely zeroed. You can never be sure that your manufacturer is not sending your designs to their customers.

Relying only on traditional legal contracts gives a false sense of trust and complicates the negotiation process. Legal agreements also do not provide active protection against violations, and it’s not easy to monitor third parties that your contractors outsource.

There is nothing you can do to stop fake copies of your product from appearing everywhere because CAD designs and their geometric data are not sufficiently protected by copyright law and are not fully included in patent law. And the last thing you want is long, costly litigation with a vague outcome.

It needs to be taken into consideration that in most countries, copyright law works at the moment when a concept of work is born. This means that immediately after you’ve made a blueprint (i.e., CAD file) of a particular item or otherwise depicted it for others to see, it may be subjected to a country’s copyright law. So protecting your CAD files legally is a good idea as it shields them to a certain extent.

But CAD files include a wide range of information beyond just pieces of design, and sharing even a tiny bit of it is already crucial for the whole project’s IP.

Imagine subjecting everything your CAD file has to a legal copyright-protecting procedure. Depending on how complicated your project is, it may take from several weeks to a few months just to negotiate your legal contract properly. It also might be breached regardless, as you never know what particular file may be leaked. And all the waiting, negotiating, gathering docs, and proving ownership take a lot of time and money.

So, it’s the 21st century, and how to protect CAD IP ownership without going bankrupt?

Legal technology, also known as Legal Tech, refers to technology and software to provide legal services and support the legal industry. Usually, these solutions are developed by startups founded with the purpose of disrupting the traditionally conservative legal market.

CADChain is a legal tech startup aiming to protect CAD data, which means that half of our development relies on proven and new technologies such as blockchain, encryption, and (in the future) AI. By adding legal knowledge and components to these technologies, we create our end-to-end solutions.

What’s inside?

  1. We blend geometry and cryptography for state-of-the-art IP protection that is securely embedded into the file. We analyze the geometry and create a geometric twin of any CAD file. Then we use cryptography to hash the results and irreversibly link the data to the IP owner on our blockchain protocol.
  2. Ricardian contracts, which are legal smart contracts (“self-executing” agreements, both man and machine-readable) that do not require a team of programmers to write and a horde of lawyers to understand. This innovative method of contracting takes care of licensing and copyright protection in an automated fashion.
  3. A digital fingerprint approach creates a unique signature that unites the CAD object ID with its owner and serves as the proof of creation, making the owner “the first in line” if it comes to a dispute.

How does it work?

We start with a plugin on top of CAD software, called CADPlug, that takes care of IP protection and a web interface to allow data tracking and design licensing, which we call CADTrack so that users can monitor the processes.

Later we unite them in CADShare — a stand-alone enterprise application that allows for secure file management across the Universe if needed.

Altogether, this solution is named BORIS. The first beta version is designed for Autodesk Inventor.

The World Intellectual Property Organization has also made the first steps towards using blockchain for IP protection, like its WIPO PROOF addressing the holders of unregistered rights and the IP register in Blockchain, confirming the value of blockchain technology to IP protection.

The European Commission has written several papers on the problems regarding intellectual property, considering such aspects as 3D printing.

They have said in their reports that blockchain-based data-tracking systems are going to be the starting point of tremendous growth in this sector. Thus they have verified blockchain as a method of CAD-files protection, yet again proving the cutting-edge nature of the CADChain’s model. Additionally you can enable 3D models protection with our product BORIS for Cura.