Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), members of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation today to preserve consumer choice, reduce insurer and driver costs and improve competition in the market for replacement automotive parts.
The Promoting Automotive Repair, Trade, and Sales (PARTS) Act, will place a two-and-a-half year cap on the period of exclusivity for U.S. design patents on auto parts as it relates to alternatively supplied repair parts. Under the PARTS Act the time period would commence as soon as a particular car model (containing a design-patented part) is introduced anywhere in the world. During the 30-month period, alternative manufacturers and distributors could manufacture, test, market and distribute parts pre-sale without infringing upon the design patents.
Auto manufacturers currently retain a 14-year period of exclusivity for U.S. design patents on collision repair parts, which limits competition and choice while adding costs to insurers and consumers. The average vehicle lifecycle is 10.8 years, a period far less than the current 14-year protection period. The current environment has led to less choice in parts and higher costs for consumers, automotive repair technicians and insurance companies.
"Competition is the hallmark of our free market system," Rep. Issa said. "Consumers have dozens of choices in consumer electronics, food, services, clothing and other products--this same array of choices, across all price points, should also extend to automotive repair parts.
"This is not the time to raise repair costs for Americans depending on their cars so they can get their kids to school and drive to work," Rep. Lofgren said. "We need a balanced approach, and this bipartisan bill encourages competition for an innovative, quality auto parts market at the best price for consumers."