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AAIA Asks Congress to Support to H.R. 5638

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BETHESDA, Md. — The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) has called on Congress to support H.R. 5638, legislation that would amend federal patent law to provide an exception from design patent infringement for alternative repair parts used for the purpose of restoring a vehicle to its original appearance. The bill was introduced by Representative Zoe Lofgren (Calif.-16).

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Car companies’ use of design patents to restrict availability of competitive collision replacement parts is a threat to the automotive aftermarket, according to AAIA. Over the past five years, the number of design patents awarded to the major automobile manufacturers has dramatically increased – collision parts now account for 50 to 93 percent of U.S. design patents awarded to car companies. For example, a ruling by the International Trade Commission (ITC) effectively eliminates alternative options for seven replacement collision parts on Ford F-150 pickup trucks.

"Unless Congress intercedes by adopting H.R. 5638, the ITC decision, in combination with the dramatic increase in design patents granted to car companies, could allow automakers to gradually eliminate the entire alternative collision replacement parts industry," said Kathleen Schmatz, AAIA president and CEO. "While automakers have their sights set on collision repair parts today, this effort could easily be expanded to mechanical parts if the strategy is successful."

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