Patent Enforcement In A Time Of Troubles
In Bird Culture …
Manufacturing company Intersurgical says it had no intention of making a threat. Managing director Charles Bellm issued a statement to The Verge:
You may recall the story from earlier this week about how Italian manufacturing solutions company FabLab found a solution to a lack of availability of a specific valve for respirators. They first approached the Luxembourg based company which holds the patent for the valve to ask for the specifications of the valves so that they could be properly 3D printed during this emergency, as all the licensed sources were out of inventory and unable to fill requests in a timely manner. The company rebuffed their request and so they recruited a pair of veteran 3D printers to measure one of the valves to determine if they could print out replacement parts, which they were successful in doing and these valves have since saved lives.
Well, it seems that the patent holders disapprove of this and are considering legal action against those involved in creating these replacement parts. Ignoring the disparities in manufacturing costs for the moment; enforcing your patents is certainly a legal right and not something you should be disparaged for doing. Unfortunately in these times that decision is ethically questionable as there is literally no way to purchase a legally manufactured valve without sitting and watching people die while awaiting a new shipment.
If hospitals chose to continue using the 3D printed part after the pandemic has come under control then one could understand why a lawsuit would be launched, after all the printed part costs 10,000 times less than the patented part. That would certainly be an interesting case to watch in the future, but for right now it is either farcical or pathetic.
The hospital's usual supplier said they could not make the valves in time to treat the patients. That launched a search for a way to 3D print a replica part, and Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Ramaioli, who work at Italian startup Isinnova, offered their company's printer for the job. However, when the pair asked the manufacturer of the valves for blueprints they could use to print replicas, the company declined and threatened to sue for patent infringement.
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Naomi might be able to help:
“Ok so here is the offer- if you are a clinician, and there is an IP issue standing in the way of saving lives- the company will not send the parts on Net 90, or does not have them, I will get it reverse engineered and serve as a teams human shield/patent bullet catcher in China.”
Did you see the update to the verge article that the original reporting was incorrect and there has not been any legal action threatened?
Glad to hear it, I will update.
One wonders what would have happened if this story hadn’t broken across the interwebs, but that could just be paranoia.