Medical device maker threatens to sue COVID-19 volunteers

Medical device maker threatens to sue COVID-19 volunteers

A medical device manufacturer has threatened to sue volunteers who created 3D-printed medical valves used to help treat patients infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The company, which was not identified, has threatened to sue the volunteers for copyright infringement.

Pitching in to help amid coronavirus spread

Recently, a hospital in Italy’s ground zero ran out of respirator valves while treating COVID-19 patients. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

An Italian startup, Issinova, heard of the critical situation and quickly offered its 3D-printing services. The founder of the startup, Cristian Fracassi, tapped the help of his fellow engineer, Alessandro Ramaioli to reverse engineer the medical device called the “Venturi” valve.

“We were told the hospital was desperately looking for more valves,” Fracassi said, adding that“they’re impossible to find at the moment, the production cannot keep up with the demand.”

Pitching in to help amid coronavirus spread

No good deed goes unpunished

During the process, the pair tried to contact the supplier for a blueprint of the device but they were shunned away and were threatened to be sued for copyright infringement. 

Despite the threat, the startup continued to manually recreate the valve. Fracassi and his team successfully created the first few respirator valves which were then used for the treatment of the 10 coronavirus patients.

“They tested it on a patient and they told us that it worked well and so we ran again back to our office and we started to print new valves,” said Fracassi during an interview with BBC news.

Printing the valve is not expensive, amounting to roughly $1 per piece. However, the time that it takes to produce the valve is very slow. It takes roughly an hour to finish a piece and Issinova currently only has six printers deployed to the job.

The large number of valves needed by the hospital cannot be accommodated by Issinova alone and other firms came in to help, such as Lonati SPA, a manufacturing company.

Issinova and Lonati stated that they are not doing this for profit and that they will not release their design publicly. Both companies are currently working for free.

Medical device maker threatens to sue COVID-19 volunteers

Coronavirus continues to spread unabated

As of the moment, there are more than 31,500 coronavirus cases – and 2,500 fatalities – in Italy alone. The country has the most number of COVID-19 patients outside of China, where the novel coronavirus was said to have originated. The worldwide tally for the number of victims is still on a rise with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

According to monitoring websites, there are more than 198,000 confirmed cases around the world and 7,948 deaths. On the bright side, 81,950 people have already recovered.

Countries affected by the virus are currently handling the outbreak with assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Images courtesy of Cristian Fracassi

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