The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has rejected the contention of various car manufacturers that Article 110(1) of the EU Regulation No. 6/2002 would not cover alloy car wheel rims.
Article 110(1) provides exclusion from protection as Community design for a design which constitutes a component part of a complex product used for the purpose of repair of that complex product so as to restore its original appearance.
The court in its judgement dated 20-12-2017 was of the view that a strict interpretation of Article 110(1) was justified inasmuch as the ‘repair’ clause limited the rights of a design holder, since that holder is denied, when the conditions laid down by said Article are met, the exclusive right to prevent any third party not having his consent from using such a design.
It was observed that the purpose of such clause was to avoid the creation of captive markets in certain spare parts and, in particular, to prevent a consumer who has bought a long lasting expensive product from being indefinitely tied, for the purchase of external parts, to the manufacturer of the complex product. The appellant in the disputes was a seller of alloy car wheels which were identical to those of prominent car manufacturers.
Further, the Court held that the manufacturer or sellers of a component part of a complex product are under a duty of diligence as regards compliance by downstream users with the condition laid down in the provision.
The car manufacturers (Audi and Porsche) in this regard had raised the question as to what measures must the supplier of replacement parts take in order to objectively ensure that his product can be purchased exclusively for repair purposes and not for other purposes as well, such as the upgradation or customisation of the product as a whole.