Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures has received a patent for a DRM system for 3D printers, to stop people from printing out trademarked and patent objects. Like other DRM systems, this won't work (it will either have to be so broad in its parameters for recognizing prohibited items that it will balk at printing innumerable harmless objects, or it will be trivial to defeat by disguising the objects beyond the system's ability to recognize them).
Like other DRMs, it will require designing 3D printers so that they keep secrets from their owners, opening up the possibility that this facility will be exploited by bad guys to do bad things to the printers' owners (Charlie Stross envisions compromised 3D printers outputting rooms full of printed penises overnight in his book Rule 34).
But at least it's patented by a notorious patent troll, which means that other jackasses who try to implement this stupid idea will find themselves tied up in absurd, wasteful lawsuits. It's mutually assured dipshits.
From Tech Review's Antonio Regalado:
“You load a file into your printer, then your printer checks to make sure it has the rights to make the object, to make it out of what material, how many times, and so on,” says Michael Weinberg, a staff lawyer at the non-profit Public Knowledge, who reviewed the patent at the request of Technology Review. “It’s a very broad patent.”
The patent isn’t limited to 3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing. It also covers using digital files in extrusion, ejection, stamping, die casting, printing, painting, and tattooing and with materials that include “skin, textiles, edible substances, paper, and silicon printing.”
Nathan Myhrvold's Cunning Plan to Prevent 3-D Printer Piracy