Design protection for spare parts

The European Commission published a proposal on 14 September 2004 to amend Directive 98/71/EC on the legal protection of designs. This intended to encourage competition in the spare parts market.

The Commission proposed a liberalisation across the European Union of the aftermarket in visible spare parts. The Directive contained a repair clause which stated that: there will be no design protection in a design which is a component part of a complex product and is used to repair that product so as to restore its original appearance.

This means registered design protection is now not available for spare parts which must match the product as a whole.

Examples of such spare parts include car body panels, bumpers and windscreens which need to match the component being replaced. However, the directive affected all industry sectors.

The United Kingdom currently has a liberal regime, similar to that proposed by the Commission. Here the right in a registered design of a component part is not infringed by use of the design for the purpose of repair.

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