The Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet held a hearing yesterday to discuss the Promoting Automotive Repair, Trade, and Sales Act" (the "PARTS Act"). As discussed here the act could significantly reduce the term for design patent protection for repair parts from 14 years to 30 months.
The results in the committee were mixed. One of the primary concerns was auto-manufacturer's ability to completely monopolize the autoparts marketplace with design protection. However, the proposed remedy to limit the term of design patents for auto-parts struck members of the committee as equally unfair.
According to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., "whether you're a small company or big company or an individual, if
you're smart enough and inventive enough to come up with something you
can patent, I want you to enjoy the benefit of it." "I don't
like the idea of investing in a patent and all of a sudden it's not
yours anymore after a short time. That doesn't seem right to me." (1)
The committee members appeared to struggle with balancing competition against the rights afforded to inventors. How the committee will resolve this balance will require close attention.
(1) (quote attributed by Ryan Davis, in "Lawmakers Wary Of Bill To Limit Car Part Design Patents," link)