Washington, D.C. –Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) recently introduced H.R. 5638, a bill creating an exemption for repair parts in U.S. patent law. This bill applies only to repair and replacement parts that restore an article’s original appearance. This legislation was introduced partly in response to a recent International Trade Court (ITC) decision holding that automakers could assert patents on purely ornamental and cosmetic features of exterior vehicle parts to prevent the manufacture or importation of repair parts, such as bumpers. The United States Trade Representative has elected to let the ITC’s decision stand unchallenged. Even before this decision, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts were already 35-100% more expensive than non-OEM secondary repair parts.
“The ITC’s decision isn’t just bad news for car owners seeking to purchase auto parts to repair their vehicles, it’s also bad news for auto insurance rates,” noted Rep. Lofgren. “These costs will put a severe dent in the pocket books of many working Americans, who depend on their vehicles to take their kids to school, drive to the doctor, and simply get to work. I believe that our patent system should provide an appropriate incentive for industrial designers to innovate. However, the system must be balanced and take into account the legitimate needs of consumers.”
Groups supporting this bill include: Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety, American Insurance Association, Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, Automotive Body Parts Association, Center for Auto Safety, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, Public Citizen, Quality Parts Coalition, and the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality.
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren is serving her seventh term in Congress representing most of the City of San Jose and Santa Clara County. She serves as Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law. She also Chairs the House Administration Subcommittee on Elections and serves on the House Homeland Security Committee. Congresswoman Lofgren is Chair of the California Democratic Congressional Delegation consisting of 34 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives from California.