March 20, 2020Published Article

3D Printing As Indirect Patent Infringement Amid COVID-19


In Italy, a shortage of vital medical equipment has brought together the worlds of patent law and 3D printing.

The equipment, which is apparently patented, is a special valve used in breathing machines that are needed to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients. In northern Italy, where the coronavirus has hit particularly aggressively, hospitals are overwhelmed with patients and are unable to obtain the valves from their normal supply chains.

A hospital in Brescia got put in touch with two nearby engineers who quickly designed a digital version of the valve and, without permission from the patent holder, used 3D printers to manufacture valves. His reward? In addition to the profuse thanks from many hospital staff and patients, he purportedly received a threat of a patent infringement lawsuit from the patent owner.

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