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Monday
Feb062012

New proposed legislation to create design patent infringement exceptions for motor vehicle parts

On February 2, 2012, Representatives Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), members of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced H.R. 3889, a bill entitled the Promoting Automotive Repair, Trade, and Sales (PARTS) Act.

The proposed bill would create exceptions from acts of infringement under 35 USC 271 for certain component parts of motor vehicles.  Under the PARTS Act, with respect to a design patent that claims a component part of a motor vehicle as originally manufactured,it shall not be an act of infringement of such design patent to make or offer to sell within the United States, or import into the United States, any article of manufacture that is similar or the same in appearance to the component part that is claimed in such design patent if the purpose of such article of manufacture is for the repair of a motor vehicle so as to restore such vehicle to its appearance as originally manufactured.”

Further, “after the expiration of a period of 30 months beginning on the first day on which any such component part is first offered to the public for sale as part of a motor vehicle in any country, it shall not be an act of infringement of such design patent to use or sell within the United States any article of manufacture that is similar or the same in appearance to the component part that is claimed in such design patent if the purpose of such article of manufacture is for the repair of a motor vehicle so as to restore such vehicle to its appearance as originally manufactured.”

Similar bills have been previously proposed, without success.  Supporters of such reform argue that such legislation will lower cost for automobile repairs.  Not surprisingly, the insurance industry endorses such efforts.  Opponents of such bills point to the cost of developing quality parts, well designed to safely function as needed and to appeal to consumers at the same time.  The opponents believe that allowing anyone to knock off these parts would not help the auto industry in this country.

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