The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider an automotive trade group’s challenge to design patents covering parts for Ford Motor Co.'s F-150 pickup truck.
The high court’s denial of the Automotive Body Parts Association’s appeal leaves in place a decision that rejected the ABPA’s attempt to block Ford from enforcing patents on headlamp and hood designs against the group’s members.
Replacement parts distributors and insurance companies for years pushed for legislation that would cut the amount of time automakers could enforce design patents against collision repair parts makers. The ABPA, a trade association representing companies that sell vehicle replacement parts, was among those that backed the legislation, which stalled in Congress.
ABPA sued Ford in 2013 after certain members were accused of selling infringing parts. The group argued an F-150 owner has the right to repair a damaged truck, and either make replacement parts or have those parts made for them.
A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan refused to find Ford’s U.S. Patent Nos. D489,299 and D501,685 unenforceable against ABPA members. Buying a vehicle doesn’t give the owner the right to make “new auto-body parts covered by Ford’s design patents,” the judge said.
“It follows that the owner lacks the right to have those parts made for her by ABPA members,” U.S. District Judge Laurie Michelson wrote.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the ruling in July 2019.
In appealing to the Supreme Court, ABPA argued the ruling could minimize, or even eliminate, the right to repair in design patent cases.
“This result not only will adversely affect the automotive repair industry with its thousands of daily repair part transactions, but also will adversely affect every industry where products or product components have designs or portions of designs covered by design patents and are in need of repair,” the trade group wrote.
Ford didn’t file a response to the ABPA’s petition.
The case is Automotive Body Parts Association v. Ford Global Technologies LLC, U.S., U.S., No. 19-1002, 3/9/20
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