Friday, February 17, 2012

Limiting Term for Auto Part Designs

Legislation has been proposed this month that could severely limit design patent protection for automotive repair parts. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) reintroduced legislation on February 2 that could drastically reduce the term for design patent protection for repair parts from 14 years to 30 months. This is not the first time automotive parts have been targeted (as Observed here), prior legislation sought to exclude automotive repair parts from design protection entirely.

The proposal, titled the "Promoting Automotive Repair, Trade, and Sales" (PARTS - here) Act, allows for manufacture, testing, importation, and pre-sale distribution of repair parts for any automotive "component parts" that would otherwise infringe a design patent. The PARTS bill exempts acts of infringement that occur 30 months after a patented part is offered for sale.

The bill has the potential to severely limit the protection afforded to patentees of automotive parts. Under such a scheme, timely filing of a design patent application is essential to maximizing the 30 month period. We will continue to follow the legislation and report on it status.

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