ELYRIA, Ohio — Bendix appeared before a Senate subcommittee as the sole industry representative in a plea for stronger enforcement of intellectual property rights.
The parts maker is a charter member of the Motor Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) Brand Protection Council and has successfully instituted its own comprehensive intellectual property protection and enforcement program, which focuses on extensive education and outreach, intellectual property protection, and enforcement of its patents and trademarks.
Anthony C. LaPlaca, vice-president and general counsel for Bendix, testified to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia about the impact of knock-off and non-genuine parts on vehicle brake performance, overall highway safety, brand equity and lost revenue for legitimate component manufacturers.
“The sophistication of counterfeit operations has improved to the point of making it difficult for consumers to discern the real from the copy,” LaPlaca said during testimony. “But in terms of performance, quality and actual costs, there are obvious differences. And for Bendix, in particular, dealing with components and systems that directly influence the braking ability of a heavy truck, with its impact on vehicle operation, driver safety and the safety of others who share the highway, underscores the need to control this issue.”
Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, chairman of the subcommittee, invited Bendix to testify at the July 26 hearing, which included other representatives from the Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. General Accounting Office.
The hearing focused on the progress that the administration’s Strategy Targeting Organized Piracy (STOP!) initiative has made in developing and implementing a plan to improve intellectual property rights enforcement and assistance since the subcommittee’s last hearing on June 14, 2005.
Bendix testified that, due to the influx of knock-off and non-genuine parts and the infringement of intellectual property rights, it estimates millions of dollars in revenue are lost annually across multiple product lines.
“The challenge is more than financial, however,” LaPlaca said. “At Bendix, we’re concerned about the dire consequences that knock-off parts can create for users. Bendix components and systems relate directly to the safe and reliable function of the air brake system on commercial vehicles.”
Although it has not had the occasion to utilize many of the government’s resources to date, Bendix proposed that the subcommittee consider legislation to strengthen legal protection for industrial designs. Bendix testified that protecting the original designs of useful articles that are incorporated in the braking systems of heavy trucks would reduce the potential for consumer confusion and benefit highway safety.
“The buying and selling of look-alike products is a problem propagated by the knock-off reseller’s use of the company part names and part numbers as the genuine Bendix products,” LaPlaca said. “Often, the part numbers are not eligible for trademark protection. For this reason, Bendix would benefit from extending intellectual property protection to industrial designs of its safety critical air brake products and components. In fact, the entire automotive industry, and perhaps other key US sectors, would benefit from this type of legal protection.”
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