Following a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, a civil securities fraud trial and a $580,000 judgment levied against its former CEO, Revolutions Medical Corp. would appear to be just another failed pipe dream on the penny stock ash heap.
But a few believers still exist, and Roy Smith — owner of a small business in Hopkins — is one of them.
Smith lost $315,000 when the SEC effectively shut down Revolutions Medical in 2018, revoking the locally based medical device firm's ability to sell shares publicly after the former chief executive was accused of engaging in a pump-and-dump stock scheme.
The company is all but insolvent, save for a dwindling checking account and a handful of patents for a retractable needle syringe called RevVac that's never been mass produced.
It's those patents — specifically one in China — that has Smith and a few other Revolutions Medical investors still clinging to hope. But, like most things involving the company, the Chinese patent is, well, complicated.
There are allegations that a former executive used forged documents to improperly transfer the patent to an unrelated Chinese firm that now refuses to give it back. Smith and other investors recently hired a law firm in China to try to regain the patent, to no avail.
The Chinese National Intellectual Property Administration denied a petition to return the patent to Revolutions Medical, urging the company instead to negotiate with the current patent holder for its return.
"We cannot locate a person to contact," said Richard Vogel, another investor. "So we are still without our patent."
Smith and others have repeatedly asked U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Tim Scott for help from Washington, but have gotten nowhere. They've been referred to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney in Columbia, but no action has been taken.
"This is theft of intellectual property," Smith said. "This is a real life example of what our leaders are allegedly concerned about, and it's happening here on a local level. Are our representatives all talk and no action?"
The Chinese patent is important because Revolutions Medical contracted with a manufacturer in that country to make the syringes. Revolutions Medical allowed the manufacturer to build, and own, a mold for the product in exchange for royalties on future sales. But the manufacturer won't make the syringes unless Revolutions Medical owns the patent, and Revolutions Medical can't afford to buy back the mold.
The investors are looking into whether it would be feasible to ask a Chinese court to intervene, but it might be too costly.
Most frustrating to Smith and other investors is the perceived lack of political will to help even in a time when politicians are making hay over allegations that China regularly steals U.S. technology.
"We believe in this product. It could save lives by preventing accidental needle sticks while preventing hepatitis and HIV," Smith said, adding its vacuum design is safer and less expensive than spring syringes in use today.
And while the stigma from the pump-and-dump scheme hangs thick over the company, the remaining investors say they want to move on.
"Spilled milk," Randy Hope, one of the investors, said.
"We'd like to get the patent back, we'd like to start production, and we'd like to start saving lives," Smith added.