For over a decade, automobile manufacturers have been seeking to use design patents to eliminate competition in the auto repair parts marketplace. Specifically, several car companies have been applying for and receiving design patents, not just on the overall design of the car which they have always done, but also on each individual, exterior, collision repair part. If allowed to monopolize the market for parts used in a repair, the costs could potentially skyrocket.
A narrowly tailored piece of legislation entitled the Protecting Automotive Repair, Trade, and Sale Act is intended to solve the problem created by the original equipment manufacturers. The legislation would reduce the current 15-year window down to 30-months for car companies to enjoy exclusivity for the sale of crash parts – too big of a window would destroy the pricing benefits and economies of scale for the aftermarket manufacturers and distributors. The 30-month "shot-clock" on the car company's period of monopoly would begin "ticking" as soon as a particular car model containing the design-patented part at issue is introduced anywhere in the world. Moreover, the proposal would specify that an act of infringement would be the public sale of the part, not the manufacturing or pre-sale distribution. Thus, it would allow for the manufacturing and stockpiling of parts even during the 30-month period.
Importantly, nothing in the legislation would prevent a car company from obtaining designing patents for its crash parts and enforcing them against other car companies in the primary market for a full 15 years.
NAMIC supports legislation that would prevent the abuse of the design patent system to limit competition in the repair parts marketplace.
February 3, 2020 Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., chairman of the Energy Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, sent a letter Jan. 29 to the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission regarding the rising cost of auto repair and its impact on consumers. In... Read more
December 4, 2017 The Quality Parts Coalition released new research Nov. 29 tracing the abuse of design patents for cosmetic auto repair parts to judicial activism. The new white paper... Read more
November 30, 2017 In the wake of new research tracing the abuse of design patents for cosmetic auto repair parts to judicial activism, the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies is urging Congress to adopt legislation that ensures competition in the... Read more
April 10, 2017 NAMIC, working with the Quality Parts Coalition, secured bicameral, bipartisan reintroduction of important legislation April 4 to address the... Read more
April 4, 2017 The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies welcomed introduction today of legislation to save consumer billions of dollars each year by preserving competition in the market for... Read more