A new article by Prof. Dinusha Mendis (Department of Humanities and Law, FMC), co-authored with Dr. Ana Santos-Rutschman (St Louis University, USA) and Dr. Rosa Ballardini (University of Lapland, Finland) explores the way in which the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the use of 3D printing in healthcare. In particular, the article considers the use of 3D printing in the fight against this pandemic and the implications which have arisen in the legal field – as a result of intellectual property laws.
These implications first became apparent in March 2020 in the Lombardy region in Northern Italy, one of the areas which was hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic. As the outbreak progressed, a hospital of Chiari (a town in the province of Brescia) came close to running out of valves to connect patients to ventilators. The hospital reached out to the local manufacturers for more, but they could not deliver replacement valves in time – due to their supply chain and restrictions arising from intellectual property laws. However, a local engineering startup heard about the situation and developed three different versions of the valve prototype in a few hours. Within 24 hours, they had used a series of 3D printers to produce 100 valves, by reverse engineering and 3D printing the replacement valves. Furthermore, while a valve from the original manufacturers cost over 10.000 euros, the 3D-printed valves produced by Fracassi and Romaioli were significantly cheaper at around 1 euro.
One of the main reasons for the price disparity between the original valves and the 3D-printed ones, stemmed from the legal framework around technology use. There were also questions raised about the breach of intellectual property laws, by the local engineers.
However, at a time in which there is great legal uncertainty about how 3D printing in general will be regulated worldwide, it is important to think ahead to future scenarios of infectious disease outbreaks, particularly pandemics – where intellectual property laws may appear to stand in the way of critical health issues. In concluding the article, the authors make recommendations for the future and in this context, suggests a carve-out which would become applicable when there is a declaration of emergency by local or national authorities.
>> Read the full article here: https://iprinfo.fi/artikkeli/3d-printing-how-an-emerging-technology-may-help-fight-a-pandemic/
In April 2020, Prof. Mendis, together with partners from UK, Germany, Austria and Finland completed a large scale empirical and legal study on the Intellectual Property Implications of the Development of Industrial 3D Printing. The project was commissioned by the European Commission to Bournemouth University in 2018.
>> Download the full report and executive summary here.