By Caroline Holland
Patent Office Seeks Perspective on Automobile Design
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) began a listening tour May 6 by meeting with automotive industry executives representing Ford Motor Co., Chrysler LLC, General Motors Corp. and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers over issues related to the protection of automobile designs. This topic has been raised with the introduction of new legislation related to the use of component parts.
H.R. 5638, introduced by U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., would amend title 35 of the United States Code and would allow certain component parts to be used in the repair of another article. Margaret J.A. Peterlin, deputy undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property and deputy director of the USPTO, led the meeting at Ford’s design center in Dearborn, Mich.
Future meetings will be scheduled with other stakeholders – including insurance companies, independent parts manufacturers and consumer groups – to gather perspectives from across the industry.
Most recently, this issue has been raised by Ford’s filing a design patent infringement complaint against several respondents with the International Trade Commission (ITC), alleging infringement of design patents for exterior parts on the 2005 Ford Mustang. The request asks that the ITC conduct an investigation under Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 regarding automotive parts. Ford filed a similar complaint in 2005 that resulted in an import ban on seven F-150 crash parts. The ITC decision, currently under appeal, prevented those parts from being sold in the United States.
EPA to Consider Particulate Matter 'Speciation'
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will now consider the risks of individual particular matter (PM) components, a practice known as “speciation” in its review of national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS).
Previously, the agency indicated that it would limit its risk review to particle size. The EPA released its final integrated PM NAAQS review last month, which is scheduled for completion by 2011. The agricultural, mining and electrical utility industries support consideration of PM components. Industry sectors including automakers and petroleum refiners, however, have opposed PM speciation because they believe science is not advanced enough to move away from size-based regulation.
Supreme Court Considers Employment Case
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments April 23 regarding an employment law case of importance to small business owners. The case, Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, will decide whether the employer or the employee must bear the burden of persuasion in claims based on the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
The Supreme Court has been asked to determine whether the employer or employee must prove that a business decision was unreasonable. If an employment decision is proven unreasonable, an employee may then be able to prove discrimination in violation of the ADEA. The outcome of the case will guide employers on how they should conduct reductions in work forces and other decisions involving salary and promotions.
H.R. 5638 is available on the Automotive Service Association’s legislative Web site, www.TakingTheHill.com. H.R. 5638 can be found under “Track Current Legislation” under the list of Federal Bills.
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