Patents that restrict repair choices for common car parts is leading to higher prices and need for legislative responses
In the past 20 years, automakers have been increasingly misusing design patents to restrict repair choices for common car parts. In his new book, The Right to Repair: Reclaiming the Things We Own, copyright, trademark and property law expert Aaron Perzanowski explains how this leads to higher prices and less choices for consumers — driving home the need for legislative solutions.
The concept is relatively straightforward: excessive design patent use reduces aftermarket competition, and less competition means automakers are free to charge “inflated prices.” Indeed, research demonstrates that automaker-branded car parts can be 60% more expensive than alternative parts of comparable quality and safety. As long as automakers are allowed to misuse design patents in the aftermarket, consumers can expect to see higher prices when repairing their cars.
It doesn’t have to be this way, however. By passing right to repair legislation, Congress can ensure that neither consumers’ wallets nor local businesses get squashed by automakers’ anticompetitive behavior. Currently, both the SMART and REPAIR Acts are sitting before Congress — both critical, bipartisan bills that would give consumers the choices and affordable prices they deserve when repairing their vehicles.
Consumers are ready for these protections, too. A recent national survey from the CAR Coalition found that 78% of vehicle-owning voters support federal right to repair legislation like the SMART and REPAIR Acts. Research from Perzanowski, published in the Indiana Law Journal in 2021, also shows that 86% of consumers would support legal rules requiring manufacturers to provide “parts, tools, software updates, and documentation” to independent repair shops and consumers.
CAR Coalition encourages consumers and the industry to join the growing automotive right to repair movement and tell members of Congress to support the SMART and REPAIR Acts.