How Digital Technology and Software have Impacted Intellectual Property in the Graphic Arts

TASA ID: 7210

Intellectual Property awareness and protection used to be a non-issue in printing, publishing, and related areas. However, with the growth of software-driven technology, the Internet and WWW, Intellectual Property awareness and protection has come to “center stage” in graphic communication. Knowledge of copyrights and patents is now essential. These areas were not previously part of required knowledge. That has changed as the industry has changed, with software infringement cases representing one of the highest areas of dispute in copyright and patent litigations.

Technology is a Double-Edged Sword

While technology improves quality of life, simplifies tasks, and provides instant access to information, it also compromises privacy, confidentiality, and security. We are all “open books” to anyone wanting to explore our personal lives. Is the trade-off worth it? Most people believe so. If they didn't, the Internet, the WWW, email, social media, and online commerce would not have grown the way it has. Indeed, the printing and publishing industries would not have changed the way they did from traditional to digital imaging resulting in the birth of e-publications.

Growing Markets Are Impacting Intellectual Property Protection

The growing markets resulting from digital imaging has focused on the speed and manner in which people receive information, both have caused concern about intellectual property protection. The ease with which information can be captured and passed-on has resulted in reduced attention to respecting copyrights. Copyright infringement has grown as a result. For example, in addition to e-publishing, digital technologies has inspired the birth and growth of custom printing, variable data printing, “just-in-time” printing and publishing, customization of media, on-demand printing, one-to-one communications, the “market of one,” and targeted marketing. Each greatly speeded the flow of information, and has impacted the degree to which copyrights has been violated. Add to this the applications of cloud computing, short-run color, high-speed wide-format printing, printed electronics, 3D printing, e-ink and e-paper, and micro cameras, and the speed of information-flow from one point to another becomes enhanced.

Mobile Devices Speed the Ability to Copy and Infringe

This is particularly true with access to mobile devices and applications such as QR Codes, “Clickable Paper,” RFID, apps development, and Near-field Communication that further speeds copying and sending information, and takes one’s attention off of copyright infringements.

We’re Facing a Changing Communication World

The publishing industry is looking closely at the cost/benefit ratio of traditional printing and distribution vs. e-publishing and distribution. The print-and-distribute vs. distribute-and-print models are being carefully assessed. Obviously, with paper representing 30- to 50-percent of the cost of printing, e-publishing makes sense from a financial standpoint. However, does it reduce the benefit of the published product? It is generally accepted that print is more detailed, informative, and pervasive than is electronic media. Ask anyone who has read a book and then viewed a movie based on the book, and they’ll say that the book had more meaning and detail. The same is true of a story in a printed newspaper or magazine relative to an audio or video representation. This raises questions about a printed story vs. a story read on a computer screen or mobile device. Does the reader come away with the same understanding of the content in both instances? Are advertisers as or more content with advertising in e-publishing vs. in traditional print? These are topics of exploration in the publishing world: print vs. electronic distribution. There are some interesting findings emerging suggesting “not so fast” in abandoning traditional print.

Patent Trolls Beware! We’re Onto You!

The printing industry in the US has been in decline for over 20 years. Traditionally a low-profit industry, printers and their suppliers are trying to find ways of increasing products and services focusing on digital technologies and applications to increase profits and save jobs. Patent trolls are inhibiting such growth and causing companies to close, downsize, and lay off employees, because they cannot afford to absorb the huge fees demanded by trolls, while maintaining or growing business. Trolls are equivalent to extortionists lacking business morals and ethics, or concern for the nation’s push to grow companies, produce jobs, and keep or bring back as much business as possible to the US.

Companies faced with threating patent troll litigation should not settle by paying license fees. Giving in to such demands will exacerbate the problem and encourage additional intimidating and threatening lawsuits in an attempt to extort funds from honest and legal businesses, working hard to survive and grow, and provide employment opportunities. A solution is bringing together all companies named in a suit that has been filed by patent trolls, and to work as a unit in bringing the matter of alleged infringements before the US Patent & Trademark Office for invalidity hearings. Such challenges are often won.

WHAT TO EXPECT – Outlook: Now and the Future

A lot has recently occurred that has transformed defendants to aggressors, and the plaintiff trolls to be the losers. But, to keep this up, we must continue our industry position of not being intimidated, and of not responding directly to requests from attorneys representing the trolls.


I have been engaged in over 50 cases as an Expert Witness, mostly focused on Intellectual Property in the graphic arts. My whitepapers focused on exterminating patent trolls have reached the courts with over 100 cases dismissed as a result. Since then, patent trolls, for the most part, have stayed away from the graphic arts industry due to precedent and costly losses when attempting to extort funds from printers, publishers, and software and hardware developers. For examples, click on the "Documents to download" and "More links" sections below.

TASA Article Disclaimer

This article discusses issues of general interest and does not give any specific legal or business advice pertaining to any specific circumstances.  Before acting upon any of its information, you should obtain appropriate advice from a lawyer or other qualified professional.

This article may not be duplicated, altered, distributed, saved, incorporated into another document or website, or otherwise modified without the permission of TASA and the author (TASA Id#: 7210). Contact marketing@tasanet.com for any questions.

Previous Article “To Protect and Serve ALL”
Next Article Elements of an Effective Compliance Plan for Healthcare Businesses
Tasa ID7210

Documents to download

Theme picker


  • Let Us Find Your Expert

  • Note: This form is to be completed by legal and insurance professionals ONLY. If you are a party in a case that requires an expert witness, please have your attorney contact TASA at 800-523-2319.

Search Experts

TASA provides a variety of quality, independent experts who meet your case criteria. Search our extensive list of experts now.

Search Experts