3D Printing, Valuation, and Service Inputs: Looking to the Future Rather Than the Past to Design Rules of Origin for Advanced Manufactured Products

The use of digital technology in manufacturing has resulted in services becoming key inputs in global value chains (GVCs). Increasingly complex GVCs, however, complicate determining a good’s origin through the rules of origin pro- visions in trade agreements. Once we consider a service, like the digital files used in 3D printing, as a crucial input of a tangible product, should the origin of that service play a role in determining the origin of the 3D printed good? If the 3D file is the input with the highest economic value, and economic value is a basis for origin determination, then the origin of the printed good may be determined by the origin of the 3D file design service.
This chapter examines how the origin of a service could be factored into the ad valorem approach for determining the origin of 3D printed good. If, as some scholars suggest, the greatest value of a 3D printed good lies in the design of the 3D file, then we must take two steps before incorporating the value of the file into the ad valorem analysis: (1) assign a quantifiable value to the file, and (2) identify the origin of that file. While the trade law literature has not explored in depth the value of a digital input, the valuation of intellectual property rights provides some starting points for understanding how to place a value on the 3D file. Yet, 3D files are not considered by all industry participants to be an asset that must be exclusive to one owner, and this could impact a 3D file’s value. Firms could also take advantage of references to “substantive business operations” in GATS and national or regional legislation to strategically locate the origin of the file in a particular country and thus benefit under a preferential trade agreement when trading the printed good. Finally, as determining the origin of digital transmissions is a complex process, designing and linking rules of origin for digital services to rules of origin for goods adds to the complications already inherent in determining the origin of goods produced through GVCs.