Rumors of Suing Volunteers Who Printed 3D Life-Saving Valves to Fight Coronavirus Negated

The Italian volunteers were assisting the overwhelmed hospitals in northern Italy.
Fabienne Lang
3D printed valves3D Printing Media Network

On Monday, volunteers in Italy rose to the occasion to help assist a northern Italian hospital that was running out of crucial valves for a medical device by 3D printing them on the spot. The device assists in keeping coronavirus-stricken patients alive so that they can recover from the virus. 

Rumors that the original medical company that usually provides these valves was suing the volunteers have now been shunned. 


The original manufacturer not pressing charges

Printing unpatented 3D versions of a piece of a medical device could lead to serious legal issues, which is what Italian volunteers could have undergone earlier this week. However, it now doesn't look like the original manufacturer will press any charges. 

The reason the rumors began in the first place was when Massimo Temporelli, the professor who recruited the pair of volunteers who designed and created the 3D printed valves, was quoted by Business Insider Italia to have said the original device manufacturer threatened them with an infringement claim. 

However, one of the volunteers, Alessandro Romailo, told the Verge that these allegations are incorrect and that they had not received any threats. All they did receive were comments from the manufacturer that they would not be releasing the original design to them. 

So the duo reverse-engineered the valve, designed it, and printed it at the hospital in a matter of hours. 

Romailo stated "I talked to an operator who told me he couldn’t give me the files, but after that, we didn’t receive anything from the original company — so I can assure you we didn’t get any threat.

"They said they couldn’t give us the file because it’s company property, but that’s all," he said.

Temporelli also spoke with the Verge and back-peddled on his initial comments about legal threats by saying "Let’s say the risk to be sued exists since they bypassed a patent, but that’s it."

The manufacturing company, Intersurgical, mentioned they had no intention of suing the pair. Charles Bellm, its managing director, issued a statement to the Verge

"Just to confirm that recent reports from Italy are totally incorrect, we were contacted at the end of last week for manufacturing details of a valve accessory but could not supply these due to medical manufacturing regulations, we have categorically not threatened to sue anyone involved. The valve is an accessory supplied as part of a CPAP Hood system which alone costs a few euros."

"Our Italian company has been doing their utmost to supply the hospitals at this time and have been supplying these free of charge in many cases to use with the CPAP Hoods. It is very disappointing that in the current climate this incorrect information is circulating, our focus as a company is to be able to supply the hospitals that require these and many other vital products and we are making every effort to ensure we can do so."

Romailo and Temporelli have both emphasized how the best long-term solution is the original valve, however, that the 3D printed one works well when sudden measures are called upon.

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