Keeping prices fair and the automotive collision parts marketplace free by adding a “repair clause” to U.S. design patent law is critical to preserving consumer choice, according to testimony from the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and fellow advocates for consumer rights before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property.
The CFA says that a repair clause will ensure that the manufacture and sale of alternative collision parts for the purpose of repairing an automobile is not considered an act of infringement.
Consumers save up to $1.2 billion yearly by choosing replacement parts for their vehicles, according to the CFA. Over the past five years, the award of design patents to major automobile manufacturers has grown to about 20 to 25 percent of the total U.S. patents awarded to those manufacturers. As the number of design patents obtained by car companies skyrockets, so will the price of those parts if they continue to enforce their patents against alternative suppliers of collision parts, the CFA says.
“Car companies have hijacked design patents to curb competition,” said Eileen Sottile, executive director of the Quality Parts Coalition. “With a monopoly in place on individual replacement parts, car manufacturers can demand higher prices, which will encourage the insurance companies to ‘total’ more vehicles and ultimately raise premiums. The CFA and other consumer rights groups agree with the Quality Parts Coalition that consumers should not be forced to pay the price of the big automakers’ monopoly.”
There is a solution available, the CFA says. The recently adopted European repair clause preserves car company design and prevents vehicle competitors from copying specific design items on the vehicle, but allows consumers the freedom to repair their vehicles with a choice of parts.
For more information, visit www.qualitypartscoalition.com.