The Honda Takedown: How A Global Brand Failed To Read The Room

Perhaps the story of the moment in the world of 3D printing concerns a Japanese manufacturer of cars and motorcycles. Honda has sent a takedown notice requesting the removal of models starting with the word “Honda” to the popular 3D printing model repository site Printables. It’s left in its wake puzzlement, disappointment, and some anger, but what’s really going on? Perhaps it’s time to examine what has happened and to ponder what it means for those who put online printable parts and accessories for cars or any other item manufactured by a large corporation.

If You Make Something, What Rights Do You Have?

Soichiro Honda with his 1964 Formula 1 car
Soichiro Honda, famous for being an engineer rather than a serial litigator. Roderick Eime, CC BY 2.0.

The story is that as far as we can glean from reports online, the takedown notice was sent only to Printables by the European arm of Honda, and was pretty wide-ranging with any Honda-related model in its scope. Printables complied with it, but as this is being written there are plenty of such models available from Thingiverse and other model repository sites.

Anyone who makes a career in content creation has by necessity to have a working knowledge of copyright and intellectual property law as it’s easy for the unwary to end up the subject of a nasty letter, so here at Hackaday while we’re not lawyers this is a subject on which we have some professional experience. What follows then is our take based on that experience, our view on Honda’s motivation, and whether those of you who put up 3D models have anything to worry about.

If you create something, you own its copyright. Whatever it is, be it a musical composition, a Hackaday piece, or a 3D model. You can transfer that ownership as I have done to Hackaday with these words in return for being paid, but that doesn’t change the existence of the ownership. There are also patents should the thing you create be an invention rather than a piece of content, and design patents to protect the distinct look and feel of some creations.

Technically this isn't a fake Rolex, but and "Rqlex".
Technically this isn’t a fake Rolex, but and “Rqlex“. Gdead, Public domain.

If the thing you create uses within it something with a copyright or patent owned by somebody else, that somebody else can assert those rights. Commonly you’ll hear this with respect to music, if my latest ditty samples that of Ed Sheeran then either I should have secured a licence for those samples before I release it, or I should expect a letter from his lawyers.

So it’s clear that if you’re putting up an original 3D print without anyone else’s work within it, then it’s yours and nobody else can claim its removal on copyright grounds. Which sounds clear-cut, but when it comes to the Honda case this is evidently not that simple and there exists something of a grey area.

I have a friend with a fake Rolex watch bought for a few dollars as a novelty on a Thai market. It looks the business from the front, but from the side it lacks the real thing’s chunkiness and of course it has a very cheap mechanism. It’s an obvious fake, and were he to import a container of them to London he’d undoubtedly face a swift legal takedown. As you might expect the same applies to a fake car part, and were that container to be full of Honda Civic door handles with fake Honda packaging then the car company would be completely justified in taking him down.

When Does A Civic Part Cease To Be A Honda Civic Part

Three small parts in a row on a table
Which VW Polo lock part is infringing, the broken genuine one on the left, the aftermarket one in the middle, or my 3D-printed one on the right?

This might seem like a cut-and-dried case for a 3D printer model of a Civic door handle then, but here’s where we enter the grey area. An exact model of the handle labelled “Official Honda® Civic® door handle” is like the fake Rolex, it’s passing off as the real thing so would be a justified recipient of a letter. The question is though, at what point does a Civic door handle stop being a Civic door handle and thus a copyrighted Honda design and start to become a different door handle that happens to fit a Civic, or indeed a generic door handle?

There’s a parallel in the world of fashion, a designer can create a couture dress but another designer can make one that looks a lot like it but is not identical without fear of legal threat; this is how the dress worn by a starlet on the Oscars red carpet can be bought for a fancy party within hours of the awards ceremony. That designer just can’t print “Gucci” on it.

In the case of the Printables takedown it extends further than parts into accessories, alongside a Civic door handle, it might catch a clip-on mobile phone holder designed to engage with a Civic air vent. There there can be no possible claim on the basis of copyright replacing to the part itself as the phone holder is the invention of its creator, so all that’s left is the possibility of a counterfeit. Yet again, an “Official Honda® Civic® air vent phone holder” would be passing off as the real thing, but to assert that any such accessory designed to fit a Honda is passing off as a Honda product is extremely tenuous.

It seems likely that Honda are being creative in their interpretation of a grey area in intellectual property, and are pushing that creative interpretation to the limit. They do not own the copyright on designs created by third parties just because they look a bit like a Honda part unless they are direct copies of copyrighted Honda parts, and with something as generic as a door handle they are unlikely to be able to pursue a patent infringement claim.

Given they’ve targeted any use of the word “Honda”, it’s possible their angle is not one of intellectual property in the parts themselves, but in counterfeiting and passing off as Honda products. Once more I think that the carmaker has stretched a grey area to breaking point, as the difference between an “Official Honda®… ” model and one that states it fits a Honda is so wide as to be a chasm even Evel Knievel himself wouldn’t be able to jump.

We Think Honda Are Taking A Few Liberties

A Mugen spolier made for a Honda Accord.
A Mugen spolier made for a Honda Accord. Having gone after 3D printing, we now await Honda’s takedown of their entire aftermarket parts ecosystem. RG72, CC BY-SA 4.0.

So I think that an over-enthusiastic corporate lawyer at Honda thinks that he’s hit the jackpot with a tenuous and speculative takedown, and given that a huge aftermarket car parts and accessories business has been legally supplying bits for Hondas and countless other cars ever since the advent of mass-market motoring, it’s possible that in doing so he’s set the company on a collision course with a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Except of course he hasn’t, because Honda know that this will never see the inside of a courtroom and it’s easy to come after the little guy with a 3D model but difficult to take on a huge car accessory manufacturer. Should you be worried about that car part model you put online then? Probably not, because we think it’s very unlikely that other manufacturers will be foolhardy enough to follow suit.

We think it’s significant that so far this extends only to Honda Europe and Printables, who as part of Prusa Research are based in Europe. Either this is a test of the waters to see what they can get away with, they know that similar tactics would be more difficult against an American website such as Thingiverse, or possibly their clueless lawyer simply works out of their European office. Whichever of these possibilities is the case it’s a regrettable move, and it’s one for which we think Honda should now pay the price in the form of bad publicity.

Meanwhile to other manufacturers we’d say this: be less like Honda and more like Ford.

Banner image: “Honda Ridgeline Sport Grille” by [McChizzle], public domain.

141 thoughts on “The Honda Takedown: How A Global Brand Failed To Read The Room

    1. Something bad IS in the process of happening to Honda, at their own hands: they (and the OTHER big Japanese manufacturer) are completely failing to read the room–no, the world–on EVs, treating them as a fad and creating cutesy little me-toos like the e, and “announcing” scores of models by 2030. At this pace they will struggle to still exist by then. Bye-bye, Honda!

        1. I agree, Not happy with Honda about this…but my next car will still be another Honda as I have been getting 20+ years or over 200k miles out of them. As long as that doesn’t change then they will be fine.

          1. It changed.

            For _all_ brands when they switched to 20 weight oil and skinny, racing style, piston rings.
            Thank the government for 50 mpg requirements.
            Those are also 150k mile maximum engine life rules.
            Which is about 3 Jatco CVT transmission lives, modern cars are like bic lighters, disposable.

            My kid brother is a platinum cert Honda/Accura stealership mechanic.

            Toyota’s aren’t better. But they are the only two Japanese brands to consider.

            Nissan is French BTW, avoid at all costs. Same as the German brands, which all royally suck now.

            Simple key. If it doesn’t have a throttle _cable_, you don’t want it.

            Honda and Toyota both had leadership turnover about 20 years ago. The new leaders are both MBA types monetizing the corporate reputations. Just like Benz.

            e.g. Honda now ships small equipment (gas powered lawn stuff) with _plastic_ cams. Plastic cams!

            Keep your current car as long as humanly possible. I’ve got a 64.5 mustang I can sell you.

          2. Consider a ford focus. my 2002 zx3 is still running past 300,000 miles as the first and only owner; that is aside from owning several focus(that ’02 zx3, a ’02 wagon, and ’02 svt, and a ’13 c-max hybrid basically a 3rd gen focus with a taller roof)

          3. naturally aspirated subarus will outlast a honda motor any day of the week, as well as the rest of the car. however the newer ones have yet to prove their worth. if i pump premium fuel into mine, it runs better and also improves gas mileage to the tune of 5 or 6mpgs. they just seem to love premium fuel. im getting sticker mpgs after 20 years and it doesnt sip a single drop of oil, and if i use premium and drive reserved i can get well over the rated mpgs. of course it is manual, so good luck finding one.

            and the only hondas i would recommend are accords of the year models 89 to 93. my odomoeter stopped working on my 90 manual accord at around 250k miles.

            my last two toyotas could hardly eek it out and the current one burns oil. two crayollas and a camry. amd this camry is supposed to have had the piston ring issue fixed on this year model.

            something to consider.

      It would be a shame if someone dumped all of the SEMA models for everything Honda into all the 3d print/model sites at once…

      1. Let us flood the internet with our own 3d models unrelated to Honda, name them for example. Honda civic cup holder drill bit jig sorting tool.stl , Honda civic door handle part #_ Rev 1 3d benchy.obj etc…..

        1. Instead you could just add “Does not fit Honda” to every model or list all Honda models the item does not fit “does not fit Honda Civic, Honda Accord, Honda Legend, Honda…”

          1. But you have to get the names right, to trigger them. “incompatible with Honda” becomes “Honda incompatible”, or maybe “Honda baiting benchy”.

        1. “You wouldn’t download a car” is a parody created in response to comparing two completely different offenses- on one side is grand theft auto (the crime not the video game named after the crime) and on the other side copyright infringement often referred to as “piracy” by copyright owners.

          1. “You wouldn’t download a car” is NOT parody and originally has nothing to do grand theft auto. It was an idiotic comparison by the film industry between material and immaterial.

          2. In fact, “you wouldn’t download a car,” points out the difference between data sharing and theft. I WOULD download a car, because doing so doesn’t deprive anyone else of the use of a car THEY own, or even to the plans for a car that they already have. “Downloading cars” is more akin to educating others about how a cars works, so that more people can build cars, than it is to theft. We have a very confused society, that encourages free exchange of information (public schools, public libraries), while at the same time always trying to secure an advantage over everyone else through monetization of “free” information.

    3. This isn’t really a reply as much as it’s simply a comment. As the owner of an old Honda (1987) which is impossible to find parts for because the manufacturer has decided to stop making them, 3D printing is pretty much a godsend. I’d love to see Honda start up their own 3D printing of old parts. I’m admittedly not knowledgeable of 3D printing but to my understandinng, if you have the physical properties of a part (meaning specifics of size and shape), knocking one out would be extremely easy, wouldn’t it? It seems to me that if the manufacturer has abanded making parts of an older model they should either resume supplying them or appreciate the fact that others out there are. Keeping N600’s, S800’s, CRX’s, and early Civic’s roaming the streets and showing up at car events would actually promote the brand, shouldn’t it? In thode cases it seems to me Honda, having the details od their own parts, should either see the value in providing such parts themselves or appreciate and encourage those who are. 3D printing it seems, opens up new possibilities for hard to find or one-off parts for anything the manufacturer no longer provides.

      1. Exactly. Honda want to kill off their history.
        I can’t see any other reasonable explanation.

        Am involved with recreating unobtainable honda parts including 3d printing but also injection molding such is rhw demand for no longer produced parts.

        Honda could have learnt from this and kept supplying them. Setup a business unit to talk to car communities.

        But they have been out of touch for decades with enthusiasts. Which is why people that own say a crx more than likely don’t have a honda as a daily because Honda won’t listen to them or their needs but other marques do.

      2. Making repair or replacement parts is one of my best uses for my 3D printer, to the point that, in the early days of the pandemic here in the USA, when most people thought we were still gonna be fine, we bought a few extra rolls of filament, including my first roll of flex filament, to increase our self-sufficiency. And, well, even now, I actually prefer my 90 degree printable angle bracket to the store bought ones, and it’s less than an hour to get two spit out of the printer.

  1. There was a lot of Honda logo’s badges and other copyrighted material, also on the slashdot story they mentioned hood latches in the summary which is a brow raiser. Not saying I agree with their heavy handed blanket actions … but unlike a lot, im not in instant offended rage mode.

    1. “There was a lot of Honda logo’s badges and other copyrighted material” – No there wasn’t. They took down models which had absolutely no Honda logos on them too. Also what’s wrong with hood latches?

  2. I wonder if it was car or motorcycle parts that they were really looking to take down. Since Soichiro’s death the older bike parts that had been plentiful for decades started to disappear as Honda discontinued parts and aftermarket and hobby parts are starting to enter the market for popular bikes. Maybe they are looking at bringing back some discontiued parts and are killing the print your own market.

  3. Ford have been bastards. Case in point: “” used to sell ECMs and injectors and stuff for putting factory Ford computers on things that were once carbed. It was “noticed” and forced to rename to “” There are *countless* forums, etc. that used “Ford” or “Mustang” in their name that saw serious litigious shit. They don’t deserve a pat on the back.

      1. I thought the bar for losing your trademark was ridiculously high, like Hoover still has a trademark even if the colloquial name for a vacuum cleaner is a hoover. Same thing with Xerox and Tarmac. If it’s so high there’s no need to defend your trademark.

        1. It’s telling that the examples you’ve used have all spent significant cash defending their trademark against genericization. A key legal distinction between the public already using it in common parlance and actually losing the trademark is vigorously defending that trademark against any actual infringement.

        2. The bar isn’t high — a simple record of taking action suffices. Which is why the lawyers for these companies take cheap/simple action like sending e-mail, and write it down as billable hours. Boom! Trademark protected.

          If I had a dollar for every time we get written by Xerox or Velcro or Tupperware… I’d have like 12 dollars. Because it’s hapened just a handful of times.

          Do also note that although they’re required to ask, you’re in _no_ way required to do anything. If you’re just writing a Hackaday article about velcro and Velcro wants it to be Velcro™, you can either be nice and look up the Unicode or tell them to stick it with the hook-and-loop fastener of their choice. If you’re not in the hook-and-loop industry, they’ve got no leverage on you.

          My take on the 3DP question, though, is that people probably put up models named “Honda Widget” instead of “Widget for Honda Civic”, and I do see how one could possibly think that it was a model made by Honda. And that would give them legal grounds — whether against the people who put up the models or Prusa who hosted them, I dunno. But I’m pretty sure Honda would go after the bigger fish.

          And who knows, maybe this presages Honda’s entry into the for-sale 3D models for OEM parts? In which case, they’d probably want their trademark to be well in the clear.

          But it’s horrible PR that they’ve done for themselves here. “Misreading the room” is spot-on.


          It’s not at all hard to lose your trademark or brand rights. As Elliot Williams said, it’s also not at all hard to take the necessary steps to prevent yourself from *automatically* losing your trademark/brand.

          And, it’s possible to accidentally destroy your own trademark. One way to do that is to use YOUR OWN trademark as a generic term.

          > When the Otis Elevator Company advertised that it offered “the latest in elevator and escalator design,” it was using the well-known generic term “elevator” and Otis’ trademark “Escalator” for moving staircases in the same way. The Trademark Office and the courts concluded that, if Otis used their trademark in that generic way, they could not stop Westinghouse from calling its moving staircases “escalators”, and a valuable trademark was lost through genericization.

          In general, if it can be shown that you aren’t valuing your own trademark enough to defend it from misuse, the court will often decide to agree with you: If you believe it has sufficiently little value that it’s not worth defending, then it must have sufficiently little value that you will not suffer damages if you are deprived of it.

          In the US, a genericized trademark is fully in the public domain and can even be commercially exploited by your competitors like any other non-registered word.

          1. Nothing about this is related to Genericization of Honda’s trademark. This is them trying to squash ‘counterfeit’ products but being too lazy to go through the listings and find what is actually infringing, and instead just saying “If it has our (common, Japanese last name) company name in it, take it down”.

            If they wanted to protect their trademark without being douchebags and taking down non-infringing original works which were (completely legally) noted to work with their authentic products, they just had to find the specific infringing items and submit takedowns for those.

            If there was any justice in the world, they’d immediately face fines or litigation for abuse of copyright or trademark, or for impeding other legitimate modelers and sellers who happened to legally use their name in a description.

          2. There’s a tiny enough list of genericised trademarks that they fit on a fairly short Wikipedia page. Compared to the list of active trademarks it’s a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of 1%.

            And there’s absolutely no genericisation going on because every part is *explicitly* for a genuine Honda vehicle; it’s being used specifically to exclude any car that ISN’T one.

      2. Oh geez, this chestnut again. No company is forced to take active legal action against every mention of a trademark in order to protect it. It’s almost *impossible* to actually lose a trademark via dilution, and it makes no sense to C&D people who are using your mark to talk about your own products! It’s only people who are intentionally trying to pretend that they are *actually* Ford or Honda or whoever who need to be censured, and that doesn’t apply to anything discussed here.

        1. I am not a lawyer, but my lawyer tells me differently. And a quick search of case law shows me plenty of examples of companies losing copyrights based on failure-to-defend.

          Old examples would be Bayer AG’s loss of Aspirin and Heroin as trademarks due to Bayer’s failure to “reinforce the brand’s connection with their product”.

          Modern examples would be Xerox’s extensive efforts to prevent the genericization of its core trademark, Lego’s efforts in the same vein, and previously, Nintendo’s successful legal efforts to ensure that courts would accept they had done due diligence to ensure that popular usage avoided “Nintendo” unless talking about a “game console” actually sold by Nintendo. Interestingly enough, Nintendo let the NES trademark expire in 2016, as the cost to protect it exceeded its likely future value.

          Losing rights by dilution or alienation is actually pretty easy, however not all apparent efforts to prevent this are equally sincere. It’s also very common to see scare tactics used to drive out unwanted competition under the guise of preventing dilution.

          However, plenty of legit activity exists to prevent dilution, too. One big indicator is if their lawyers make a habit of filing notices with offenders, but don’t particularly attempt to follow up on the notices. In most cases, this is sufficient to generate the necessary documentation of ongoing efforts to maintain their rights, but doesn’t generate unnecessary court costs or alienation of goodwill. A few companies operate in enough different jurisdictions that they have to go above and beyond to document this. Lego appears to be one example, due to the imperfect equivalence between US and EU copyright law. But in general, aggressive actual takedown efforts tends to indicate an intent to suppress, in a situation where more rights are being claimed than a court would recognize.

        1. It’s right in the article: they only took down items whose names STARTED with Honda. You can call something a “Honda Civic door handle”, or you can call it “Door handle for Honda Civic”. One implies that it was made by Honda, the other doesn’t. Either is found equally well by a search tool.

          1. Yeah, they know damn well that they literally can’t do anything about those. So they turn to the “low-hanging fruit”, no matter how bogus they claim is.

          2. Oops, wrong thread. Anyway yes, I read the article too. And it DOES make Honda look really bad too. Because “Honda Civic compatible door handle” begins with “Honda” too, yet a trademark claim against such title is completely bogus.

      1. In the last few years, the case law has generally gone that way. Most cases where a domain name was quashed in court depended on the fact that a naive visitor would trivially misunderstand that the domain was somehow operated by the challenging party. Especially in recent years, simply having a trademarked word within the domain doesn’t result in automatic forfeiture, assuming competent lawyers and a legal budget sufficient to cover the normal costs incurred by the other party dragging out the case.

        Fair-use (including gripe sites) is generally protected by the First Amendment in the US, and the domain you mentioned would probably qualify on multiple fronts, and a suit would probably fail the “confusingly similar” test and almost certainly fail the “no bona fide use” test. It would also probably be found to be “in good faith” as well, which would reduce the avenues of attack available to the plaintiff.

        Nothing in law (or business) is ever guaranteed, but a domain like you specified should be doable, for anyone with enough funding to do business in the first place.

        1. And this, in my especially uninformed opinion, is the issue with all trademark, patent, copyright, etc. Laws. You can only withstand the legal process if you both have and think it worth it to use said money on the fight. Which results in a lot of examples similar to this Honda debacle where some smaller organization or even individual receives an intimidating as hell letter and immediately complies with something they in no way should have to. At least it is getting publicity this time but I’d say the majority of improperly intimidated IP takedowns go by without any notice by design so that the corps do not get any blowback like this. We really need a fresh take on IP throughout the world but especially in the US.

    1. Land Rover went on a similar spree a while back, even targeting “XYZ Land Rover Club” of which there are many – although that got walked back quite quickly. Silliest one was Global Roamer’s “Roverdrive” overdrive which was forced to rename to “Roamerdrive”.

      Quite what good it did anyone is beyond me although I’m sure the lawyers all congratuled themselves and got nice bonuses.

  4. It seems like some portion of the takedown is legally valid, and some portion is fraudulent. An outstanding problem with US and global copyright law is that there are very few ramifications for a fraudulent takedown request, so companies take the scorched-earth approach like this.

  5. Wait a minute here.

    Is this Honda going after every design that is meant to fit a Honda product?

    Or designs have the word Honda somewhere in their names or descriptions?

    Or as the beginning of the article says is it only about ones whose title starts with the word Honda?

    If they are going after everything meant to fit a Honda product then sure, let’s go get the torches and pitchforks. If they don’t want Honda anywhere in the description.. well that’s almost as bad. How is anyone going to find a design that fits their Honda without using the word Honda?

    But if they just don’t want titles starting with Honda… come on now. I kind of get that.

    Starting the name with their name does kind of imply that this is a Honda product. Of course anyone with a brain knows it isn’t. At least until if/when car companies start making 3d printable designs available for download it’s obviously not theirs. Might that ever happen? I don’t know… might Microsoft ever have a Linux distribution? Oh, wait… I guess anything is possible given enough time.

    Not that I think they are considering a possible future in providing STLs. But that IS how trademark works. If you don’t defend it you lose it. Even the Raspberry Pi foundation asks people not to name their Pi accessories “Raspberry Pi”.

    1. “Starting the name with their name does kind of imply that this is a Honda product. Of course anyone with a brain knows it isn’t.”

      Knowing that things that say “Honda” aren’t necessarily Honda products is obvious, but only half the problem.

      The other half is that when you *do* want a genuine part (often because you’ve been burned by low quality off-brand versions of something which have been engineered for cost not reliability/safety), it becomes very hard to distinguish genuine parts from fakes.

    2. Mate, it’s a 3d printing website. You go there to download a file to produce your own part.
      It can’t be any more obvious that if you make such a part, that it is not a genuine honda part because you literally make it in your own workshop and it always says who designed the part when you download it.

      When naming objects, it’s a good idea to keep titles concise.

      Corporations should quit being such horribly whiny bitches about people trying to make parts so they continue using their vehicles.

      Only as you say when a manufacturer starts releasing their own 3d files on publically accessible platforms, there could be reason for confusion. But since that is not the case and likely will never be the case (corporations simply are not benevolent) they should quit whining.

  6. This is a little confused. It’s about trademarks, not patents or copyright. “Honda” is a trademark. If you say a part is a Honda keyway, you are representing that it is produced by the Honda company and has the qualities of parts produced by the Honda company, and that is infringing the trademark. If you say it’s “For a Honda”, you are not making that representation.

    Of course, the automatic scanners behind these takedown notices are not that sophisticated, but neither are the 3D modelers who put them up. Careful wording is necessary and when used, you should be able to successfully fight a takedown notice. I have certainly bounced such things back to my internet provider.

    1. 100% this. The printing companies such as HP have tried going this way and preventing aftermarket cartridges to say their cartridges are “compatible with HP”, but they are not allowed to do that since the customer needs to figure out which HP printer goes with which cartridge so the information is necessary for her to find the use of the product. However aftermarket cartridge cannot say “HP cartridge XYZ” because that would present it as a counterfeit product.

      Translating to the 3D printing world, we would probably need database fields to say for which models the parts we invent fit, instead of putting brand and model in the title of the part. Like the part would be “door handle” and there would be two fields “honda” and “civic 1998” for example.

      1. Yeah, I’m not a lawyer, but I did work in IP for a couple years and this smells more like trademark enforcement than copyright or patent, although there are elements of that to a lesser degree, especially for replacement parts.

    2. Fully agree, The author’s “working knowledge of copyright and intellectual property law” is firmly left on the Dunning-Kruger curve. This article needs a correction to keep readers new to this from being misled.

  7. If the actual takedown request says anything starting with the word Honda, that is way out of bounds. For example, if I say Honda Civic compatible cup holder, there can’t possibly be any infringement in the name unless I put their logo or name on the part itself. I am stating that it will fit into a Honda Civic, nothing more. Honda named the vehicle as a way to identify it, you cannot penalize someone for using the description they assigned to it. If I put an ad in the paper saying Honda Civic for Sale, is that also an infringement? US law protects the aftermarket parts industry specifically.

    1. Prusa likely just chose to take the path of least resistance and caved completely. They don’t give a damn about their users hard work, or what precedent this sets for fair use in the future.

      I hate this new trend where user-content companies abuse their creators, and treat their work as if it’s an unlimited resource that’s completely expendable.

      1. Rather than berating them for caving, perhaps view it as a path to head off the lawyers at the pass – take it all down immediately which takes a lot of wind out of their sails, then take corrective action (EG renaming “Honda door handle” to “Door handle for Honda” which (I believe) makes the legal argument waaaaay weaker, then reinstate the new and much more compliant site and see if the lawyers still feel lucky.

        Just leaving it up and arguing for a long time can be very costly and looks worse in court.

        1. the problem is that the search engines are pretty stupid and won’t find the word Honda as quickly if it’s further down in the search title, so yes you will find your dorr handle for your honda but it will be after all the other door handle crap comes up.

    1. Good idea, but it still sets a bad precedent. However… if they did go that route they could add a little explanation of what happened in the descriptions just so users for years to come can see how Honda treats its enthusiasts.

    2. Matthew … you are being waaaaaaaay too kind.

      Fix those spell checkers and change:

      Honda -> Hondoo
      Chevy -> Chebbie
      Ford -> Fjord
      Volkswagen -> BoltsWagen

      and so on

      or whatever pleases your (Streisand Effect Stimulated) sense of humor, justice, etc.

      Let the contest begin!

  8. This is a failure on prusa’s part imo. These mega corps are always litigious and have no concept of fair use. Just look at youtube, where these companies have been given free reign to take down anything.

    Prusa should have fought to protect designs that simply had Honda in the name. Why not just add a disclaimer to all these parts that says “these parts are user designs and are not designed or endorsed by the honda corporation”.

    These lawyers have nothing to do except bully upstarts all day. If you give them an inch, they will take it and then fight you just as hard for the next inch.

    1. lawsuits cost money. Maybe it’s in the general interest of the community that Prusa doesn’t get sunk by a Honda lawsuit, even if at the cost of a few 3D printed models.

      1. Agreed. Honda is so big they could swallow ten or more Prusas and not feel it. I think the Prusa folks did the right thing; take down everything the lawyers demanded AND THEN make it public. Let Honda give themselves a nasty black eye. Clean, effective, and Honda can’t do anything about it except take the hit.

  9. “Which VW Polo lock part is infringing, the broken genuine one on the left, the aftermarket one in the middle, or my 3D-printed one on the right?”

    I’d like to float some thoughts concerning your rhetorical question about the VW lock part. I’m not a lawyer. My analysis is based in common sense (which I fully understand has little solid application in the legal world– but it should.)

    First–no third party has the right to use VW’s badges or brand marks unless they have negotiated a license use them. I think this is pretty straight-forward, and I don’t think anyone would object (unless your family name happens to be Ford, Nissan, or Honda and these corporations are harassing you for using your own name to open a sandwich shop.)

    The part at the left is a genuine VW part. I presume it says “VW” somewhere on it. I can purchase it from VW, and I could certainly turn around and sell it (with a mark-up) to somebody else, so long as I did not claim or imply a business relationship with VW that did not actually exist. (I can’t say I am an “authorized dealer” of said part if I am not.)

    The middle item is an aftermarket part. It performs a certain mechanical function, which dictates its shape. I accept that VW owns the right to THEIR part, and if you replicated their part, you certainly could not sell it as a genuine VW component. However, I don’t see how VW could own the right to all possible mechanical contrivances that might answer the specific physical requirements that this part addresses. So, all an aftermarket supplier should need to do is add a little groove or tiny hole the the part… and now it’s different!

    Even if VW successfully asserted rights to the grooved or holed variant, it seems to me all the seller would have to do is stop calling it a “VW lock part” and call it a “specialty step washer, ” “tea candle holder,” or “apple corer.” If I sell an “apple corer” that happens to be lousy at coring apples, but coincidentally works perfectly as a replacement part on a VW lock, how is that actionable?

    In any event, even if some legal construct exists that could prevent an aftermarket person from replicating and selling this part in any form, at least under US law, I don’t think that any infringement of patent rights can be claimed if an individual fabricates their OWN part. Furthermore, if you know how to make that part but your buddy does not, it is inconceivable to think it would be illegal for you to teach him or… and this is the crux of my argument… provide him written instructions on how to do so.

    If it is legal to provide your buddy “instructions,” then why can’t build instructions be gcode, or some other digital format that works with a 3d printer or cnc machines–so long as that gcode (which itself carries copyrights) was not stolen from VW.

    Finally, you post YOUR gcode “instructions” to your personal website (you’ve given yourself consent to freely distribute your own work) and I download it to print/machine my own “lock part” How is that a problem?

    1. There is an interesting tangent to this, often aftermarket parts suppliers (who presumably also produce the OE part for OE’s) will sell the “pattern” part at a reasonable price, thats identical in every way to the OE part. but with hand or machine grinding marks where the OE logo was. A recent example is I did timing chains on a BI-TDI audi. using an FAI kit. all the cast aluminium guides were identical in other markings, castings, flaws, etc to the OE ones but obvious die-grinder marks where the VW/Audi logo and part number were. Price difference was around £600 so not insignificant.

      1. This isn’t as simple as it sounds. In many cases, the supplier was contracted to IMPLEMENT AND MANUFACTURE a part to a spec, often from a mechanical design file that provides critical dimensions and such but lacks most of the details necessary for manufacture. In any case where the contract doesn’t include exclusivity (and in some cases where the contract DOES require exclusivity, but that’s not an enforceable clause in that jurisdiction), the supplier now owns the rights to their implementation of the design. As such, they can trivially fabricate extras and dispose of them however they wish. It may not be particularly ethical, but it’s not actually unlawful in such cases.

        In other cases, they were provided a full manufacturable design, and did nothing other than simple fabrication. In this case, any subsequent usage of the design that is in violation of the contract terms is unethical AND unlawful, although not always enforceably so.

        The OEM is completely within their rights to specify that all patterns, forms, and blanks provided by the OEM be returned to them at the end of the contract. Not all OEMs care, not all OEMs have sufficiently competent legal advisors, and some OEMs judge that the cost of enforcing the contract (or finding a manufacturer willing to sign such a contract in good faith) outweighs the losses from just letting the cloning happen.

        In a case such as you mentioned, the OEM definitely has the ability and funding to protect their rights, as well as the ability to vet possible manufacturers based on their track record. However, the actual loss is often lower than it seems (people purchasing parts on a budget are often not in the market for a full-price OEM part even when no compatible budget part exists), and the OEM may have chosen the fabricator based on convenience or cost, and almost certainly selected one knowing that they operated in a legal jurisdiction that would preclude meaningful recourse… because that put the most money in the OEMs pocket.

        It’s less clear-cut for small and medium businesses; they may not always be able to make better choices, and may just be stuck accepting the damage. But the cost and effort of this level of due diligence is a rounding error on the margin for any international corporation. Simply ensuring the proper payment of any required fees to operate in multiple international jurisdictions is far more challenging and expensive than vetting a manufacturing contractor.

      1. “prevent anyone but the individual or company holding the patent from making the part.”

        Not really, most patents are garbage and often invalidated by courts, companies should be able to take the risk to make products if they consider the patent to be invalid.

  10. Same story for Apple (who sued an Appleton school district!) and other mega corps. My theory is, that the source of these kind of indiscriminate takedowns are legal departments and/or contractors measured and paid by quantity rather than quality of their work. KPI uber alles!

  11. I don’t think that it’s a good idea to write long articles about intellectual property, including making judgements about the rights and wrongs of a particular case, when you clearly don’t understand the differences between copyright, parents, registered designs and trademarks. The article is very muddled and the subject is clearly way, way outside the writer’s area of expertise. Sadly a lot of people seem to think they know a lot more than they actually do about this topic.

    This is a particularly egregious example of ‘not a hack’. I usually really like jenny’s contributions but I’m afraid this one was a stinker. Sorry

      1. That is such a shallow view of this. How could you possibly lose the Honda trademark from people using Honda in the title for an item that can ONLY work on a Honda? It’s not like they are genericizing it, because it specifically only applies to the trademarked products. If anything it is being enforced by a title of “HONDA ACCORD COMPATIBLE WIDGET DESIGNED BY ME”

  12. There’s a whole industry out there making pattern parts* for cars and I can’t recall anyone trying this on before. Speaking as a Honda owner, this is one more nail in the coffin for Honda. They treat their customers like s**t. Great cars, awful company.

    * Definition of pattern parts from a site that sells them: “Also known as aftermarket or replacement parts, pattern parts are called as such because they are manufactured using the pattern (template) designed by the manufacturer.”

  13. “They do not own the copyright on designs created by third parties just because they look a bit like a Honda part unless they are direct copies of copyrighted Honda parts …”

    That’s false. At least, it’s false for the U.S.

    Under settled U.S. law, copying a copyrighted work and introducing trivial modifications to bypass copyright is illegal. It doesn’t matter if it is a plastic part, computer software, or a book. The changes or modifications – used in an attempt to bypass copyright – legally fall under the protected copyright of the original copyright owner. These copies or clones are known as “derivative works”. This is a result of court cases such as Computer Associates v. Altai, Sheldon v. Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corp, Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corp, Steinberg v. Columbia Pictures, Durham Industries, Inc. v. Tomy Corp., and etc.

    1. IANAL (but I’ve needed to be aware of the related laws in various jurisdictions at various times)

      The case law for compatibility is substantially different for non-media content, and the article isn’t discussing Copyright, it’s discussing Trademark.

      The specific design files Honda used would be copyrighted by Honda, but any third-party design files would not actually infringe upon Honda’s copyrights, as long as they were derived from measurements rather than creating by altering Honda-original files. (Media derivative work is its own unique legal area, and is not notably similar to how non-media copyrights work)

      In some cases, perhaps the details of a specific cupholder mechanism might also be covered by Patent, but by its very nature, Patent does not cover *divulging* or *communicating* the patented material. It’s perfectly legal to “tell someone how to make” a thing covered by patent. This is, after all, the theory behind patents in the first place: To ensure that the idea, design, concept is not lost from the public domain in the long term, by incentivizing creators to publish the details in exchange for short-term monopoly.

      It IS unlawful to make and sell something that infringes upon a patent. However, mere plans are merely restatement of that which is already public knowledge, thus do not infringe. All 3d model files are mere plans, as they lack physicality… and even if printed up, their physicality would be that of “a description of an item, object, or method covered by public patent”, not “an item or object itself covered by patent”.

      It would be legal for someone to document every measurement, material, and action necessary to manufacture a car identical to a Honda Civic, and to sell these plans. They wouldn’t violate copyright, as they aren’t copied from Honda’s plans. They wouldn’t violate trademark, as long as all trademarks were merely used descriptively. They wouldn’t violate patent, as they themselves are not covered by patent (even if they describe items covered by one or more patents). That wouldn’t stop Honda from drowning whoever did it in lawyers, until they ran out of money.

      Making a car from those plans (for personal noncommercial use) would be lawful even if some of the items are covered by patent, as patents only protect from commercial exploitation of a design, not individual use.

      Making and SELLING cars from those plans would be lawful if none of the items are covered by anyone’s patent, or if all relevant patents were licensed. It still wouldn’t be lawful to call it a “Honda Civic”, but calling it a “Nonda Civic-oid reproduction” would be sufficiently distinguishing in most jurisdictions.

      The real issue here is that the set of actual rights doesn’t align with many people’s assumptions about rights. And, well, when you ASSume, you become a cranky quadruped-of-burden and start seeing everyone else in the same light…

  14. The article is disappointingly short on the legal details. I am not an expert in this area and I am not a lawyer, but I do have some professional experience.

    There are actually 3 possible areas of “infringement” that could be applicable to Honda’s takedown notice to Printables. Two of which you touched on (Copyright and Patent), and one of which you completely left out.

    It is interesting that (at least as you described the letter) Honda went after items “Starting with the word Honda”, so “Replacement door handle for Honda Civic” wouldn’t be covered while “Honda Civic Replacement door handle” would? Nonetheless, that’s a bit of a digression.

    I suspect Honda’s motivation here lies not in the first two, but in the third… Trademark. From what you described, it sounds like Honda is worried about defending their Brand name and preventing some level of trademark infringement by people 3d-printing “Honda” items that could (theoretically) dilute their brand.

    Trademark is also the usual mechanism by which counterfeits in both fashion and technology are blocked. You may remember an issue a while back (2014) where Sparkfun ran into some difficulty with Fluke on this very thing.

    Fluke was actually quite friendly about it once they fully understood what was going on and worked with SparkFun on coming to a good resolution, so I don’t want to tarnish Fluke’s good name here, but I just want to point out that this isn’t exactly anything new and that trademark (the murkiest of all IP litigation areas, IMHO) is the usual culprit on these kinds of things.

  15. I’m not clear on the basis for outrage, so let’s test the theory by bringing this closer to home:

    If I fire up a site called HACKADAY or make Jolly Wrencher- and HACKADAY-branded swag for sale and I keep all the money, we’re all good?

    How about a site called hackaday.[something] where I publish exact copies of your work – digitally duplicated for perfect accuracy – so I can maybe siphon off some of that sweet HACKADAY sponsor/donor/ad revenue – still all good? I could, in effect, become a meaningful replacement for the entity known as “Jenny List” or any of the other Hackaday contributors – or Hackaday itself.

    Or I could similarly duplicate your works, properties, and marks, but include mistakes and inaccuracies that result in HACKADAY being held liable for, e.g., design failures that cause injury or death – everybody cool with that? Are you willing to absorb my failures as your professional, financial, and legal responsibility because my illicit participation is indistinguishable from your own?

    What if I do these things so well that I successfully sue to strip you of your rights to the brand, marks, works, etc. – either on the theory that I outcompeted you in the hypothetical “marketplace of ideas”, or on the theory that by your failure to protect your properties and holdings you effectively vacated your rights and claims to ownership?


    This isn’t about reading the room, it isn’t about feelings or moods or wants. We establish things like copyright and patent laws to protect makers and creators from theft and exploitation like this. We didn’t do it capriciously or arbitrarily, we did it bit by bit over centuries because people keep doing the things described above. People steal, duplicate, falsify, misrepresent, and in so doing cause harm. Long experience has taught us that, without some checks and balances, the truly clever and creative and inventive – the hackers in our shared sense of “innovative problem solvers” – will be beaten down by the thieves and the scammers and the grifters who take on none of the cost or effort and yet reap the rewards.

    I, for one, don’t want to see that happen to Hackaday…or to Honda.

    1. The issue is that Honda Europe appears to have (intentionally or accidentally) applied such a wide scope that anything labeled as related to, compatible with, or intended for anything Honda was covered.

      Sure, there are going to be some actual infringements caught and stopped… a replacement Honda logo is an explicitly protected pattern, for example. But a cupholder or dash module is no more infringing than any other aftermarket part “compatible with” certain models of Hondas.

      The law grants certain rights, not all rights. A creator does not have exclusive and unrestricted rights to his creation. Anyone who lawfully creates a product that substitutes for, competes with, or obviates the need for a Honda part hasn’t “stolen” anything. Compatibility isn’t theft. Nor is (properly) using the Honda name theft… as long as it’s used referentially, rather than as an identity or purported-origin.

      Based on a quick web search, multiple companies make “Honda Civic Fuel Injectors”. None of these are OEM parts, They’re not Honda(brand), they’re Honda-style. In the description, they’re described as Honda-style injectors compatible with specific models and years. But, my web searching found many examples of them being titled “Honda Civic 550cc Fuel Injectors 1992-2000”, for example.

      Honda would have plenty of room to notify them to change the title, but would not have any room to tell them to stop selling the product, or stop mentioning that it was compatible with the OEM parts for a Honda Civic.

      The precedent is that it’s acceptable to use even a registered brand/trademark in third-party commercial work, when the brand or trademark is necessary to properly identify compatibility or equivalence. It’s very hard to specify a compatible car, a printer, etc without mentioning a registered brand or trademark SOMEWHERE, after all…

    2. Your theory is just one big strawman on fire flailing around, you are essentially comparing what happened to ripping off something wholesale.

      I also see you didn’t address the elephant in the room. If I sell a “Honda Civic compatible large cup holder” that is entirely of my own original design, what rights do you think Honda have in stopping me from selling that design?

      Using a brand name, even a trademarked one, as a reference is entirely acceptable under trademark law because if it weren’t it would lead to some pretty ridiculous situations. Using a brand-reference doesn’t in any way dilute a trademark – arguing otherwise means that no one should ever reference trademarked brand-names which in practicality means that the brand looses it’s value.

      Honda’s actions are reprehensible but not entirely unexpected for a Japanese company. Issuing a blanket take-down without actually looking into if designs or parts are actually infringing smacks of laziness and the mindset of “fuck you, we own or control everything that has any kind of connection to our brand!”.

    1. or “Honda-compatible ”

      That would be sufficient for the trademark-infringement claim, if that’s what they’re making.

      However, if they’re claiming rights due to *interoperability*, that’s the kind of thing that a takedown-ee would have to take to court. They’d win… if they could afford to keep the case going until completion. For Honda to win such a case, they’d generally have to show that the *source* of the compatibility was itself somehow illicit, for example, that a honda employee had copied Honda-internal documentation and shared it with the creator. Simply being dimensionally compatible and providing a similar function would not usually be enough for Honda to win if the other side had competent lawyers…. but David tends to lack competent lawyers when Goliath comes knocking.

      Worse, it would represent undue risk for a third party like Printables to ignore the takedown on the grounds that no trademark was legally violated, no copyright claim was valid, etc. This would open them to getting sued directly, and getting into a legal fight with an entity much larger than yourself tends to result in pyrrhic victories or ignominous defeats, with no concrete win (customer goodwill can’t buy food and server time).

    2. From the post I assume calling it the Door Handle for Honda Civic would work.

      Pinging every item *starting* with Honda is a broad brush for the USA as I think (personal opinion) that you could probably have a “Not made or endorsed by Honda” notice on it that’d cover the problem as well.

      Possibly a special flag with a notice on entry for the page. It’d probably satisfy them if it’s really about Trademarks.

      But hey, maybe it’s different elsewhere. It’s a big world out there.

  16. Wow, the ignorance in so many comments is scary! And Jenny, your article started it. You normally are very informed and write great stuff but this was a miss. You tried to make this about copyright and patent when it’s clearly an issue of trademark. I hope this was an honest mistake and not HaD descending into sensationalism.

    I certainly wouldn’t put it past the auto industry (or any one of several other industries) to eventually declare war on open source 3d printing. But this was not the opening shot of such a war. It’s just an issue of trademark. Fix your titles and all will be fine.

    As I pointed out elsewhere, not even the Raspberry Pi foundation wants you to name your widget “Raspberry Pi Widget”. Nor should they.

    This is pretty elementary stuff!

    1. With all due respect you seem to be missing the point here, we all understand that some random bloke calling his 3d printable doorhandle a “Honda doorhandle” is crossing a bit of a line, but that doesn’t mean there should be an issue if somebody calls theirs a “Honda COMPATIBLE doorhandle”

      Using Honda’s name as if its your own is obviously not okay, but having Honda in the title/description because what you made happens to be made for a certain Honda? what exactly is wrong with that? as long as the creator is clear (“This is my design compatible with the following Honda’s: …”) there should be no issue.

      Honda crossed a line here, we are not justifying some opportunistic douchebag trying to pawn off his crappy 3d prints as official Honda parts, surely that person deserves to be sued, instead we are worried about a company essentially starting to say “unofficial car parts are against the law when they mention our brand” & that’s just mind-blowingly stupid, like the article mentions, car parts are a multi billion dollar market & then there’s also such a thing as “right to repair”.

      Honda has no right telling me i cant 3d print a replacement doorhandle, but thats what they are essentially doing right now & why comments are pretty direct.

  17. Dig back Honda Execs — Honda has a long and illustrative history of enabling consumers with product and hindering them with Executive Decisions. There’s a lot for you to learn from your own past. Recover the spirit of your founder and those who came after — especially your engineers and designers. Don’t be the enemy of a loyal customer with a broken visor clip, or we’ll find another brand. I’ve utilized “Nonda” parts myself from vendors on Etsy — because you’ve ended factory support for very recent vehicles. You’ve turned cheap little carpet anchors into collectors items. Solution: Honda should publish rapid prototype files for parts and factory accessories that are discontinued. ( ’05 Honda Element — Until the Wheels Come Off.)

  18. Okay, hold up. Honda is asserting that a model that lets you print a replacement part will be confused with the genuine Honda-made replacement part?

    Yes, I realize that there still could be a distinction between a CAD model made and distributed by Honda and one made by myself in FreeCAD, but they could just as easily say that a 1:1 scale photograph of a genuine Honda door handle, labeled “Honda door handle” infringes. Which it doesn’t.

  19. tl;dr: If it’s actually a tactic implemented by honda ….. it might not necessarily be a bad one at all, considering that ‘right to repair’ basics seem to become a thing over here in europe….

    So, while preserving any and all rights to the brand Honda, they could actually foster a better regulation towards what ppl can do in the aftermarket and diy space. ;)

    Yeah i know, that’s just some Utopian dream …. but .. wouldn’t it be a nice one? ;)

  20. Someone takes something apart, take perfect notes about it and some else build it without seeing original think, this is even called somehow …. reverse engineering? and even if not, code for 3d printer is not actual part, guys from Honda can go to vising one who printed it, and even then i think they will just see another second hand Honda on marked, or in scrapyard. What a fail…

  21. I get it. All of the 3d printing model sites I have seen are a cesspool of intellectual property violations. The worst are the ones that are obvious derivatives or rip-offs of a company’s character or trademark, and then they re-license their illegal derivative work with an “Attribution – No Derivatives” license. Where is the attribution to the original creator of the character? Why do they think they can make a derivative work, but nobody else can? A little self-policing would probably go a long way and avoid the lawyers having to come in.

  22. Ran into a similar and curious a few years back. I wanted to start making models of planes. Not F-16s, Not 747s but the kinds of plane I was flying which you mostly can’t but at the hobby store. I wrote to the most popular to see if they were interested in me doing this. After all it would be a form of free advertising. Piper wrote back and said something like Great!
    Cessna’s lawyers wrote back and forbade me from making models of their planes and was not to use the “C” word.

    1. Parts guy was a completely unskilled job for about a second.

      They just looked up the parts on the net, got the cheapest one.

      Not anymore. Now they need to know what is junk and what is good.

      e.g. Never buy a cheap in tank fuel pump, OEM or nothing. But buy the cheap brake discs, if they are bad, it’s obvious. Engine compartment sensors, OEM. Belts and hoses, Gates. Anything buried ‘hours deep’, get the quality. Chunks of steel? China.

      Do your research, or regret it. e.g. Ford cam phasors

      Double for the car choice in the first place. Don’t remember when German cars were ‘good but expensive’ and buy one. They’re running on reputation for 15+ years now. Even my extended German family are done with them. If you know any Germans, you will understand how hard that was for them to admit.

      They can let the absolute junk float around. It just drives idiots back to stealership mechanics after they get burned.

  23. From my point of view patents are pretty stupid, i totally get how some people want to protect their inventions, and i’m fine with that, but somehow every time i read some news or story anywhere regarding any sort of patents, its about how some company abuses theirs… There are even companies who’s core business is abusing the patents of their clients to sue everybody for everything possible?!?! to me that’s just extremely sad misuse of the whole idea of patents.

    In an ideal world a patent would be available for at most 1-3 year(s), that way whoever came up with an actual invention (wich doesn’t seem to be the case for 95% of patents..) can patent it, get rich off of it in that first period (hint, market your invention then make deals with big companies to produce it for you) then it becomes “free real estate” for the entire sector in question.

    In its current form patents severely slow down or even stop progress, if things would work like my suggestion above i feel like we would progress much faster as mankind, currently if one company comes up with a decent idea, they sign some forms and suddenly own it and none of their competitors can (pretty much) ever have it, how is that productive to technological advancements?? and how exactly is that fair to the actual person inside said company that came up with this?? instead the current way patents work/are used is causing the opposite, some great idea’s that should be in many products we all use are exclusive to certain brands, just because they filled in some forms years ago? f- that.

    I’m sure this isn’t a popular opinion but i support China in its disregards for most patents, not in the least because after seeing that go on for a few decades now, its pretty obvious that they dont simply make cheap copies anymore, they copy first, improve second, that should just be the case around the world.

    Also, lets be real for a moment, over half of the patents ‘out there’ should’ve never been awarded in the first place, people (read: mostly American companies?..) patent the dumbest bs these days, that needs to stop too.

    1. This article, and the takedown notice Honda issued, has nothing to do with patents. It has to do with trademarks. Do you think that companies should not be able to protect their NAMES?

      1. But how does making a part that only works on a Honda car, then using that Honda car in the title, at all hurt the trademark. It enforces it because it specifically excludes any other car from using that part.

  24. Printables was not the only one. YouMagine was also approached, possibly by the same lawyers. YouMagine is also based in Europe. We have responded to the lawyers that the designs are not infringement of Honda’s rights. It’s clear that they didn’t look at the designs in detail as the name Honda or Civic was mentioned only w.r.t. the compatibility, however it was 100% apparent that the designs would not be confused with official Honda products.

    They have a right to defend their trademark, but it would have been better if they would actually focus on designs or cases that had more (or any) merit. This way it has the appearance that they pay lawyers to bully a website that is run for the public and operates based on generosity from donors and volunteers.

  25. It is certainly fair use of a trademark to use it to identify the trademarked product specifically. I am absolutely allowed to call something a “replacement door handle that fits a Honda Civic.”

    Now, maybe Honda can drown you in legal bills (any one up to try anti-SLAPP here?), but if you take that all the way to the end, I would be shocked if you’d lose on the merits.

    1. The company that runs Printables seems to be in the Czech Republic. Now while Honda could definitely drown them in legal expenses (should Honda win a court case) I know for a fact that they can’t claim the kind of exorbitant BS damages in the Czech Republic as they can in the US. So it would’ve been nice if Prusa sent them to hell with their bogus claims and then waited to hear from the courts. If Honda did try to drag them through courts at least half of Europe would’ve covered extensively what a band of scumbags they are (without the prospect of getting any serious amounts awarded in damages either).

  26. It has already been said, but this is not about copyright. It is probably about trademarks.

    The distinction is important. Because while patents and copyright are laws whit the purpose of furthering invention, and maximising the publics access to works, trademarks are a consumer protection type of law.

    The creators are not actually the beneficiaries of the patent nor the copyright laws. Creating an artificial scarcity in order to give the holders of the letters a possibility to make profit, that is the method of achieving the goals. Not the goal as such. The goals are for patents to promote the creation of inventions, and for copyright to maximise the publics access to works.

    The trademark laws on the other hand are even simpler. That is so no-one buys something that is not what is expected. That’s why courts have the “moron in a hurry” test for distinctiveness.

    Now. Given that many compromises have been made. Unfortunately many because the holders of letters have representatives in practice, while the public have them only in theory…

    One of the things that fortunately still apply is that we have no copyrights on recipes. They simply are not creative enough. Even if they are, they are not considered so. So, do STLs have copyright? Probably not.

    If you design something that has an artistic expression, then the expression has copyright. Not the STL. That is actually better protection given that the layout of the triangles will not be relevant to the protection. And any use of modified versions will need to be transformative enough.

    For a technical part it could be a patent that is what gives protection. Again it is not a protection on the specific file, but on the invention as such. Not the function. But on the actual invention using the patented mechanism. If the part is using other mechanism for the same function it will not intrude on the patent. Also patent are for commercial users. As a private citizen, or for commissioned works, you are free to use patented inventions. In fact, this is the purpose of the publicly available patent database. So it may be used by everyone. The protection given is only for commercial purposes. Commissioned works can therefore only charge for time and materials, not the invention as such. That must be for free. Still it may be used.

    Then you do have a special case that are design patents. Those fall in between of copyright and patents. Also there the expression is protected. But a change in colour or material will be enough to bypass it, but not necessarily a trivial change in the pattern. That is what the clothing industry lives on… You can’t copy a dress. But you can make a very similar one in another fabric and colour or pattern. That is what fashion is.

    1. “It is probably about trademarks.” – I’m pretty sure that almost everyone (including the author of the blog post above) is aware of this. The thing is however that most of the takedown notices were completely bogus even on trademark infringement grounds. Even the bastards at Honda know that if they ever tried to sue somebody for the use of e.g. the term “Honda compatible” they’d lose and besides the legal expenses they’d have to endure the negative publicity too.

  27. I’m still driving my ’91 Honda Civic Si. Original owner, yada, yada. My Will has it written in that my car goes with me to the grave. It’s not happy about that.

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