U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch, R-UT, member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, together with fellow Senate Judiciary Committee member Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, and House Judiciary Committee members Darrell Issa, R-CA, and Zoe Lofgren, D-CA, introduced the Promoting Automotive Repair, Trade, and Sales Act of 2017 (PARTS).
This bipartisan, bicameral bill would expand consumer choice for automobile collision repair parts, cut costs paid by drivers and insurers, and increase competition in the automobile repair parts market.
Sen. Hatch said, “There is no reason why Americans should have to pay unreasonably high prices to repair their cars. Drivers and insurers should be able to shop around for the best deal rather than being locked into a small number of options. The PARTS Act will encourage competition in the marketplace by providing consumers with a greater choice of affordable, quality alternatives to repair their cars.”
“Purchasing an automobile is one of the biggest investments a family will make. Yet according to AAA, one-in-three American drivers would be unable to cover the costs of an unexpected car repair bill without going into debt,” said Congressman Darrell Issa. “As car insurance rates rise at their fastest rates in more than 13 years, families deserve access to as many options to make these fixes as possible. The PARTS Act increases consumer choice, encourages competition, fosters innovation and will be a big-win for consumers by driving down the costs of these often very expensive repairs.”
“Millions of Americans depend on their cars to be reliable and affordable so they can get their kids to school, pick up groceries for their family, and drive to work every day,” said Lofgren. “By bringing real competition and innovation to the auto parts market, we can ensure consumers get the best value for their dollar when they need to shop for safe, high-quality, and reasonably priced replacement parts to keep their cars running.“
The PARTS Act narrowly amends U.S. design patent law to reduce—from 14 years to or 2.5 years—the period of time during which car manufacturers can enforce design patents on collision repair parts (fenders, quarter panels, doors, etc.) against alternative parts suppliers. The current 14-year design patent term prevents aftermarket manufacturers from making or selling external collision repair parts, which drives up repair costs by limiting consumer choice, crowding out competition, and leading to higher insurance rates and fees.
Under the PARTS Act, it would not be an act of infringement for an alternative parts supplier to sell an aftermarket collision repair part once 2.5 years have elapsed from the date of patent. The Act would also allow alternative parts suppliers to research, develop, make, and test such parts on a not-for-sale basis during the 2.5-year patent period.