2015’s PARTS Act Being Considered Again

The Promoting Automotive Repair, Trade and Sales Act or PARTS Act is getting new legs in Congress. A hearing was held in early February by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet.

The legislation was jointly introduced in February 2015 to the 114th Congress by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee (to which the bill will be referred in the Senate), and Representatives Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), senior members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property (to which the bill will be referred in the House).

The PARTS Act would amend the current U.S. design patent law by lowering, from 14 years to 2.5 years, the period of time during which a car company could enforce its design patents against an alternative supplier for the sale of alternative collision repair parts (such as mirrors, fenders, hoods, and grilles). However, before the enforcement period ends, alternative suppliers could manufacture, test, market and distribute alternative parts pre-sale without being potentially liable for infringing upon the design patents.

“The consumer has a reasonable expectation that there will be a competitive market for repair parts for their automobile. There certainly is for brake pads. Why wouldn’t there be for a bent fender?” said Issa.

Supporters and opponents of the PARTS Act gave witness testimony at the hearing on February 2, 2016. The Quality Parts Coalition (QPC), Auto Body Parts Association (ABPA) and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) spoke on behalf of the legislation at the hearing. These supporters highlighted the trend by major companies to use design patents to stifle competition at the expense of consumers.

“Unless Congress addresses the automakers’ misuse of design patents on their crash replacement parts, consumers will be faced with mounting repair bills, more ‘totaled’ vehicles, increasing insurance costs, and deferring necessary repairs affecting safety,” said Jack Gillis, director of Public Affairs for the CFA.

Opponents of the act, including the Automotive Service Association (ASA), gave testimony that the PARTS Act would be detrimental to innovation in the auto industry and would harm industrial engineer’s job security. Opponents also see the potential for safety hazards.

Visit www.keepautopartsaffordable.org for more information on the PARTS Act.

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