On Monday, March 22, 2010, the House of Representatives is holding hearings on Design Patents and Automobile Replacement Parts. Even when they offer no technologic advantage, many automobile body parts are protected through design patent. This allows the original manufacturers control over the repair-parts market as well.
On the table is H.R. 3059 which would excuse design patent infringement if the accused article of manufacture "itself constitutes a component part of another article of manufacture" and "sole purpose of the [accused] component part is for the repair of the article of manufacture of which it is a part so as to restore its original appearance.’’
The insurance industry and consumer groups have lobbied in favor of the bill because it would be expected to reduce automobile repair costs -- especially for newer model vehicles. Leading design patent attorney Perry Saidman will be testifying against the bill. Saidman writes:
And why are we even discussing a bill that proposes this remarkable result? We are here because the proponents of this bill lost a hard fought design patent infringement lawsuit covering auto repair parts, and can no longer make, use, sell or import their knock-offs in the United States.
So, having been adjudicated as an infringer of validly issued U.S. design patents, these companies are asking Congress to carve out an exception to the design patent laws for auto repair parts. . . .
Why is this such a bad idea? Because it will encourage every industry that loses a design patent lawsuit to petition the congress to do the very same thing: to carve out an exception to their industry so that their infringement will not be actionable, so that they can continue to make, use, sell and import their infringing products without fear of liability to the design patent owner. . . . There is almost no industry whose products or services will not cost less with increased competition. This argument, therefore, is much broader than an argument that design patents should not be permitted for auto repair parts. It's essentially an argument that patents should be abolished, because patents allow the owner to monopolize a product and therefore reduce competition.