German automotive industry criticizes German Cabinet’s decision to introduce “repair clause” and sees drive for innovation at risk – Unified EU regulation instead of single national strategy
Today’s decision by the German Cabinet to introduce a “repair clause” into German design law constitutes a critical intervention in the system of industrial intellectual property rights. Automotive design extends to details of exterior mirrors, headlamps, bodywork panels, doors and fenders. It is important to have comprehensive worldwide design protection so that OEMS and suppliers can invest in innovations.
The automotive industry regards industrial property rights as necessary for effectively tackling the plagiarism of products and brands and for ensuring drivers’ safety. Obviously, unapproved replacement parts can compromise vehicle safety and value retention, and therefore constitute a far worse option for customers. In the field of replacement parts in particular, it is clear that brands, packaging and products are forged in large numbers at the international level.
The abolition of design protection in Germany would also mean relaxing intellectual property rights in other areas, thus doing a disservice to Germany as a location for innovation. This type of exceptional clause could serve as a precedent for other similar regulations – for example in patent law. Germany’s unilateral action is now set to extend the patchwork of different legal regulations in Europe. Instead, we should wait for a unified regulation within the EU which would apply to the single market. Furthermore, repair costs are not lower in those EU countries where there is no design protection. In the price ranking of EU countries, Germany is in the lower half – as shown by the comparison by the German Car Trust Agency (DAT) in 2017.