"In most cases we didn't feel they even deserved a patent," said Sottile. The cosmetic parts in question are so similar to their aftermarket counterparts that Sottile said that QPC has a hard time seeing how they rose to the standard of getting a design patent.
According to Sottile, the car companies currently have a "near monopoly" on the crash parts market with 72% control of the market and these design patents will only increase that holding.
QPC is gathering support for legislation the group may introduce in Congress sometime this year.
QPC originally introduced a bill into Congress in 2009; it aimed to make the act of providing a part solely for the purpose of repair exempt from design patent infringement. It was based on current laws in Australia and the UK known as "repair clauses." That bill did not get voted on by the full Senate and House before their session closed.
QPC is currently working in a bipartisan manner to explore potential legislative solutions to the design patent issue for introduction to the current Congress that is in session.
QPC has had several meetings with Congress, including a meeting with the House Intellectual Property Subcommittee and a full Judiciary House meeting. According to Sottile, the support for reforming design patent laws with a repair clause is there, the group is just awaiting reintroduction in Congress.
"If a patent is awarded, competition in the secondary market should still be permitted," said Sottile.
Sottile made the distinction that QPC has no intention of prohibiting the protection a patent provides primary competitors against each other with the legislation -- "but in the secondary market, when the part is only provided for repair, we don't think it should be subject to design patent enforcement," said Sottile.
For example, QPC believes that design patent laws should protect BMW's signature grille from Ford recreating it and using it on their Fiesta, but it should not prevent aftermarket parts companies from recreating the BMW grille for replacement on a damaged BMW vehicle.
Sottile also mentioned that the preservation of competition in the parts market in this manner ultimately allows for the consumer to benefit.
"There's a big cost difference between these parts; about 25 to 60 percent," said Sottile. "The timing is critical in this economy."
For more information about QPC and their legislative endeavors please visit www.keepautopartsaffordable.org.
The full text of the QPC's past legislation can also be seen by clicking HERE.