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Archived updates for Thursday, September 16, 2004

EU Proposal to End to Design Protection for Visible Replacement Auto Parts

On September 14, 2004, the European Commission announced its proposal to amend the legal protection of designs Directive (98/71) by removing Member States' option to maintain design protection for "visible" replacement vehicle parts, such as bonnets, bumpers, doors, lamps, rear protection panels, windscreens and wings. The proposal would allow independent part manufacturers not linked to the producers of finished vehicles to compete throughout the EU market for visible replacement parts. Non-visible parts, like engine or mechanical parts, are not concerned by the proposal. Neither are components in new vehicles.

Seven Member States out of the "old" fifteen (Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and United Kingdom) have already have a "repairs clause" allowing design protection on new products, but leaving the possibility for alternative parts in repair or replacement in the aftermarket. The Commission estimates that these parts are 6-10% more expensive in Member States where they are subject to design protection.

The 1998 Directive on the protection of designs provides for a revision of the Directive four years after the deadline for implementation, in October 2005. Nontheless, according to the Commission's FAQs on this proposal, now is the right time to introduce EU-wide repairs clause because "it has proved impossible to reach a voluntary agreement within the industry itself."
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