The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed S.B. 3325 on intellectual property rights enforcement without language from H.R. 5638, which would have created an exception from infringement for certain component parts used to repair articles of manufacture, including automobiles. The exemption would have been for parts with the sole purpose of
repairing the original appearance of the article of manufacture.
The bill will now head to the White House for the President’s signature.
Proponents of S.B. 3325, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), believe it will increase tools and resources for the Department of Justice’s programs to fight intellectual property theft, protect innovation and advancement within the United States, and establish federal efforts to eliminate counterfeiting and piracy. Both the House and Senate believe that intellectual property, which includes copyrights, patents and trademarks, is critical to U.S. economic success but is presently vulnerable to numerous types of theft and misuse.
H.R. 5638 (Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.), which was supported by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), would have left in place patent protection for the first sale of the vehicle, but would have permitted the production by aftermarket companies of replacement cosmetic parts. Similar legislation has been enacted in several countries, such as Australia, and has gained approval in the European Union (EU) Parliament, with action expected soon from the EU Council of Ministers.
AAIA told Congress that failure to enact this legislation would mean that car companies could obtain a monopoly in the sale of replacement collision repair market parts, thus raising repair costs for car owners.
In July, the Intellectual Property Owners (IPO) Association sent a letter opposing Lofgren’s bill to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Director John Dudas. IPO based its lack of support on what it said were four flaws in the legislation: the undermining of the policy rationale for IP rights; the targeting of only replacement parts; the removal of existing rights; and the creation of an uneven playing field.