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New Congressional Post Bodes Well for PARTS Act

U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA)
U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA)

Last November’s mid-term elections resulted in a shift in power in the U.S. House of Representatives, giving Republicans a majority. This means new committee assignments, including the appointment of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) as Chairman of the Intellectual Property Subcommittee. That’s good news for collision repair parts manufacturers, importers and distributors, for the insurance companies who pay for many of the nation’s repairs, and for consumers across America

Issa is the sponsor of the Promoting Automotive Repair, Trade, and Sales (PARTS) Act (H.R. 3889). If enacted the bill would amend U.S. Code to “provide for an exception from infringement for certain component parts of motor vehicles.” The Act reads, in part:

“It shall not be an act of infringement of such design patent to make or offer to sell within the United States, or import into the United States, any article of manufacture that is similar or the same in appearance to the component part that is claimed in such design patent if the purpose of such article of manufacture is for the repair of a motor vehicle so as to restore such vehicle to its appearance as originally manufactured…”

The PARTS Act was introduced by Rep. Issa in February 2012 – nearly three years ago. It has languished in the House since then. But Issa’s appointment as subcommittee chairman may help to reinvigorate interest in H.R. 3889 and move it out of committee and onto the House floor.

Under current law, a design patent lasts for 14 years from the date it is first issued.  In recent years automotive manufacturers have begun to obtain design patents on exterior collision parts such as hoods, fenders, and quarter panels. The auto manufacturers have attempted to use these design patents to effectively eliminate competition from aftermarket or third-party parts makers.

The PARTS Act will effectively reduce the monopoly auto manufacturers have on design patents for collision repair parts from 14 years to 30 months, thus increasing market competition and ensuring that customers will continue to have both access to competitively-priced exterior collision repair parts.

On his website, Rep. Issa explains his support for the PARTS Act by writing, “When their car gets into an accident, Americans want to have access to the most affordable and highest-quality automotive repair parts. This is why I introduced the Promoting Automotive Repair Trade and Sales Act.”

Before coming to Congress in 2001, Rep. Issa served as CEO of California-based Directed Electronics, a company he founded in the mid-1990s and built into the nation’s largest manufacturer of vehicle anti-theft devices, including the highly-successful Viper system.

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