A bill that would reduce the length of time design patents would apply to exterior collision parts is being considered again in both the U.S. House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
In late April, the Promoting Automotive Repair, Trade and Sales Act of 2013 (PARTS)
was reintroduced in both chambers of Congress by Senate Judiciary Committee Members Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and House Judiciary Committee Members Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).
"This bipartisan bill is aimed at helping Americans who depend on their cars to be safe, reliable and on the road so they can get their kids to school and drive to work every day,” Rep. Lofgren said in a prepared statement. "By increasing fair competition in the auto parts market, consumers will ultimately benefit by getting the best value for their dollar when they need to shop for safe, high quality replacement car parts to keep their cars running."
The bills would amend U.S. patent law by lowering the time period car companies can enforce design patents on collision repair parts against alternative and aftermarket suppliers from 14 years to 2.5 years. Before the enforcement period ended, aftermarket suppliers could manufacture, test, market and distribute those parts pre-sale without violating the patents.
Lofgren first introduced a version of the bill back in 2008 after the International Trade Commission ruled in favor of Ford Motor Co.'s complaint that Keystone Automotive Industries, U.S. Auto Parts, and a number of Taiwanese manufacturers had violated portions of the Tariff Act of 1930 by importing aftermarket parts for the F-150.