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House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on PARTS Act

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Feb. 3, 2016—On Tuesday, a House of  Representatives subcomittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet held a legislative hearing to examine H.R. 1057, the Promoting Automotive Repair, Trade, and Sales (PARTS) Act in Washington, D.C.

The PARTS Act limits the terms of protection for patented designs of automotive repair parts used to restore vehicles. If the act passes, the design patent of an automobile part would decrease from 14 years to 30 months.

No decision was made at the hearing, but several industry leaders were brought in for testimony.

It began with Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) introducing the PARTS Act.

“Car repairs are often a necessary, but costly process. The PARTS Act seeks to change this by about allowing greater car-part competition resulting in lower consumer repair prices and enhanced choice,” Issa said. “I look forward to hearing from key stakeholders about the impact of this proposal.”

Four witnesses were in attendance, two that were in favor of the PARTS Act and two were “skeptical,” according to Issa.

The first witness was Jack Gillis, director of public affairs for the Consumer Federation of America. Gillis is in favor of the PARTS Act and discussed the need for competition in the industry and the cost-saving benefits the bill would have for consumers. Gillis spoke on behalf of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which he said has done research that determined that CAPA certified parts performed nearly identical to their OEM counterparts.

Kelly Burris, a patent attorney at Burris Law PLLC was concerned with the implications it would have on the legal system. She argued that carving out the auto industry for design patent laws could put all patents at risk.

Owner of Felder’s Collision Parts, Pat Felder, delivered her opening statement next. She opened by saying that her shop has been making quality, lower cost aftermarket collision repair products since 1987. Felder was in favor of the PARTS Act in order to create a more affordable marketplace.  

Dan  Risley, president of the Automotive Service Association (ASA), was the last to present his statement. Risley and the ASA have previously voiced opposition to the act and his statement showed no change in the associaiton’s stance.

“We do have concerns when insurers insist on repairs that are simply cheaper and quicker without regard to safety,” Risley said in his statement. “The automobile is the second most expensive purchase made by Americans. Although the automobile is a big part of American’s daily life, few vehicle owners know much about collision repair. After an accident, after contacting law enforcement or other emergency personnel, the vehicle owner contacts their insurance company for help and direction. Unfortunately, very few consumers have any types of knowledge of the types of products used to repair their vehicle.”

He argued that passing this act would allow unsafe, lower quality products to be used in place of quality OE parts.

“This bill would make any part the equivalent of an OEM aftermarket part,” Risley continued. “This is impossible unless there is a set of standards that is recognized by insurers and the collision industry for parts certification.”

After the witnesses presented their statements, they were then asked questions to defend their positions.

Issa closed the hearing by thanking those in attendance and asking the witnesses to submit any further thoughts they had. No decision was made and Issa said he expects to work on future hearings with the patent and trademark office.

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