Wednesday, 18 December 2013 22:49

ABPA Files Suit Seeking to Overturn Ford Design Patents

The Automotive Body Parts Association (ABPA) announced its decision to take legal action against Ford Global Technologies. ABPA is challenging ‘the validity and enforceability of Ford’s design patents on common collision repair parts.’

On November 25, ABPA filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas against Ford Global Technologies, LLC that seeks to have design patents for body parts ruled invalid. Ford Global Technologies is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford Motor Company that manages intellectual property and technology commercialization for Ford Motor Company.

The complaint seeks to have the court declare Ford Global Technologies’ design patents invalid and permanently enjoin the company from enforcing automotive body repair parts patents against ABPA members.

According to the complaint filed by ABPA, Ford Global Technologies “… has threatened to sue one or more ABPA members for alleged design patent infringement for selling automotive body repair parts allegedly covered by design patents owned by Ford Global Technologies.”

The complaint also asserts that due to the threats of litigation against ABPA members, “Ford Global Technologies’ actions have deprived ABPA Members of the economic opportunity to compete in the marketplace for automotive body repair parts for Ford Motor Company automobiles and have improperly distorted the marketplace by decreasing the supply and increasing the cost of automotive body repair parts for Ford Motor Company automobiles.”

In a letter from Ed Salamy, executive director of the ABPA, posted on the association’s website, states, “The basis of our lawsuit is to challenge the validity and enforceability of Ford’s design patents on common collision repair parts. The continued sale of these parts is of paramount concern not just for ABPA members and their livelihoods, but also to millions of American consumers who depend on quality alternative collision repair parts for cost effective repairs.”

Salamy also serves as executive director of the Quality Parts Coalition, a group representing parts suppliers and insurers, seeking permanent legislative change to U.S. design patent law, legislation generally refered to as the PARTS Act.

In 2009, Ford reached an agreement with LKQ Corporation to settle litigation filed by Ford over collision parts. As part of that agreement LKQ agreed not to challenge the validity of Ford’s design patents and, in exchange, LKQ would become the only distributor of non-OEM collision parts covered by Ford patents.

In 2008 the ABPA called for support for design patent exemptions for aftermarket parts. In 2006, Ford had filed a suit to stop the importation of aftermarket versions of certain F-150 truck parts. In 2007, a ruling by the International Trade Commission (ITC), which named several ABPA members, awarded the design patent protection that Ford sought for seven separate alternative parts for the 2004-2007 Ford F-150. The decision prohibited the sale of aftermarket replacements for these parts.

A statement published on the association website says: ‘The continued sale of these parts is of paramount concern not just for ABPA members and their livelihoods, but also to millions of American consumers who depend on quality alternative collision repair parts for cost effective repairs.’

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