Mechanicsville, Virginia, August 10, 2021 – The Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), a national trade association representing and dedicated to the hardworking collision repair facilities across North America, established their objection to the Save Money on Auto Repair Transportation (SMART) Act.
The SMART Act, proposed by Congressman Darrell Issa (CA-50), amends title 35, United States Code, to provide for an exception from infringement for certain component parts of motor vehicles.
The small businesses we represent want to perform safe and proper repairs, that allow us to place our customers and their families back into a repaired vehicle with confidence that it will continue to provide the safety they expected from it, prior to their collision. Parts selection is a critical part of a safe and proper repair, and collision repair businesses have simply learned through first-hand experience that reverse engineered imitation parts are not the same as parts made and distributed by the OEM.
The SMART Act is reflective of past Acts proposed by Congressman Issa, such as the PARTS Act, which similarly targeted automaker patents on vehicle part designs in hopes of promoting cheaper imitation parts earlier in the vehicle lifecycle.
The Act’s sponsor and proponents suggest that limiting automakers from taking part in the U.S. patent process by allowing other manufacturers to reverse-engineer copies of the OEM collision replacement parts sooner, would benefit consumers over corporations.
“Analysis of very similar proposals had previously left Representatives skeptical of the merits of cutting patent rights for a single industry,” Shared SCRS Chairman, Bruce Halcro. “In fact, the hearings over substantially similar proposals established that it would take a major leap of faith to assume that allowing aftermarket manufacturers to copy OEM collision replacement parts sooner would actually yield savings from insurers that would actually be passed on to consumers.”
This proposal benefits other corporations, and not the American public.
Proponents represent aftermarket part suppliers, aftermarket retailers, and automobile insurers; all have a financial interest in pushing consumers into the cheapest possible repair. These same groups have long opposed granting consumers the right to decide, provide consent or even receive disclosure between the full range of replacement parts available when deciding what parts should be used on their vehicle in post-collision repairs.
“There are no universal standards in the replacement industry that all parts must meet,” added SCRS Executive Director, Aaron Schulenburg. “Working day in and day out on collision repairs, the shops we represent have firsthand knowledge of the wide spectrum of part quality found in the marketplace. Conducting a repair with all OEM parts makes the repairs go faster. Often, imitation parts – while cheaper on paper – fail to fit, costing additional time and labor to either manipulate the part or wait to receive a better-quality solution. When parts are so ill-fitting that shops are forced to return the product and wait for a replacement, it negates the perceived benefit of using a cheaper part, not to mention raises concerns over whether those parts would have restored the safety and value of the consumer’s vehicle.”
The SMART Act establishes that “it shall not be an act of infringement of the design patent to make or offer to sell within the United States, or import into the United States, any article of manufacture that is similar or the same in appearance to the component part that is claimed in the design patent if the purpose of the article of manufacture is for the repair of a motor vehicle so as to restore the motor vehicle to the appearance of the motor vehicle as originally manufactured.”
Nothing within the Act addresses safety concerns of the American public. Vehicles are often the second biggest purchase a family will make, but the family members that occupy that vehicle and those around it are irreplaceable.
Consumers deserve to be made whole after an accident – not just in appearance, but also in terms of value and safety. That includes using quality parts and following OEM repair procedures that have been vetted by the engineers who designed the vehicle and crash tested for validation. To most consumers, collision repairs should be about ensuring their vehicle is repaired to such a standard that should it be in a subsequent accident, its safety systems will operate the same as the day it left the factory. Every consumer expects a proper repair, and pushing for more affordable options at the behest of the bill payer and the imitation market could be deemed as a violation of consumer trust.
Under the SMART Act, aftermarket parts suppliers and manufacturers can design and ultimately sell an imitation collision repair part after just 2.5 years have elapsed from the date of an automaker patent – rather than the existing 14-year period. It would essentially mean that the imitation parts market is above existing U.S. patent law, and SCRS stands in opposition of the proposed language and in support of consumer safety.