3D Food Printing and Its Legal Complications

Riley Conlin, MJLST Staffer

According to a recent article in Bloomberg, the FDA has recently approved the use of a drug that was 3D printed for the first time. The first drug the FDA approved is Spritam, which was created by Aprecia Pharmaceuticals. The drug is to be administered orally to treat adults and children for epilepsy. The 3D printing process supposedly allows the pill to dissolved quickly, which means it will enable the pill to act faster in the case of an oncoming seizure. When this approval occurred several attorneys voiced concern, because of the intellectual property issues related to 3D printing. First, it would be difficult to determine the manufacturer of the drug, making the assignment of IP rights quite challenging. Second, because it would be difficult to determine the manufacturer, it would also be difficult to identify liable parties in potential litigation.

While there are undoubtedly legal issues related to 3D printing, a forthcoming article in the Minnesota Journal of Law Science and Technology Symposium argues that the benefits far outweigh potential legal issues that could slow the adoption of 3D technology in the area of food production. Symposium author, Jasper Tran, notes that there are “endless possibilities” associated with 3D food printing. First, the ability to print food has the potential to significantly impact the global food shortage crisis, because healthy food can be mass-produced via 3D printers. He also argues that 3D printing has the potential to reduce environmental harms associated with current food production. However, he does note that there are legal liability issues with 3D printing, including (1) short-term food poisoning on an individual scale or mass scale and (2) long term impacts of food printing. Despite these concerns, Tran argues the legal risks are far outweighed by the potential global benefits of mass-producing food via 3D printers.

As discussed in the Bloomberg article and in Tran’s note, 3D food and drug printing is the future. It is the responsibility of government organizations to take a proactive approach and attempt to enact rules and regulations that anticipate the new legal issues and challenges associated with the process.