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    Law & Compliance

    Design law

    Intellectual property is to be protected at all costs. This also applies to design, from side mirrors to tires. But it is possible that this protection will be softened

    Intellectual property is to be protected at all costs. This also applies to design, from side mirrors to tires. But it is possible that this protection will be softened

    Prerequisite for investment

    Industrial property rights are an indispensable basis for marketing motor vehicles, spare parts, and accessories in the EU and in the export markets of the automotive industry. Unilateral restriction of patents or design rights is therefore just as unacceptable as slackening in the fight against product piracy in industrialized and emerging countries.

    In Europe, however, there are repeated calls for the abolition of design protection for parts by means of a so-called repair clause. However, this would counteract efforts to encourage emerging countries in particular to better protect intellectual property rights. Abolishing such important design protection in Europe would open the door to further softening in other areas.

    Parts protection – i.e., design and also patent protection – is an important prerequisite for vehicle manufacturers and parts producers worldwide to be able to invest in innovations. Successful automotive design extends to the details of exterior mirrors, lights, headlights, sheet metal, doors, and fenders. Unrestricted design protection is necessary and justified. This also applies to patent protection. For example, many exterior parts contain patented technologies.

    Prevent an international patchwork

    Commercial property rights also serve to protect against product and brand piracy. If a patent or design is infringed by a spare part, this constitutes an infringement of the property right. The exploitation of such an infringement on a larger scale can be described as product piracy. In the parts sector in particular, it can often be observed on Asian markets how brands, packaging, and even the products themselves are counterfeited in large numbers.

    Lower repair and parts costs, on the other hand, are not to be expected from an abolition of design protection. In the EU, it can be seen that repair costs are not lower even where there is no design protection. Germany is in the lower price range in the EU, as a comparison by Deutsche Automobil Treuhand (DAT) showed once again in 2017. The DAT comparison was able to prove that there is no direct correlation between design protection and the price level for spare parts. In 2015, the EU officially withdrew its proposal for a repair clause to abolish design protection. It is currently not foreseeable whether a renewed proposal for harmonization will be presented at the level of the EU common market. In the meantime, individual member states should not create a patchwork solution by way of special regulations restricting intellectual property rights.

    Contact person

    Dr. Ralf Scheibach

    Head of the Legal & Compliance Department

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