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ACA Files Brief on Software Copyright

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Jan. 17, 2020—The Auto Care Association, along with Static Control, filed an amicus brief on Jan. 13 regarding a case currently before the United States Supreme Court that has the potential to severely limit the ability of companies to produce compatible replacement parts for software driven vehicles. The case, Google v. Oracle, as decided by a Federal Circuit Court, upheld a charge by Oracle that Google had violated a software copyright when it copied a small part of the application program interfaces (API) code necessary to enable interoperability with programs for Google’s Android platform. If permitted to stand, companies could copyright their APIs such that it would severely hamper companies attempting to ensure compatibility of replacement parts with vehicle software.

In its brief, the Auto Care Association pointed to the fact that often auto parts manufacturers and remanufacturers need to ensure that their software is compatible with what was installed by the original equipment manufacturers.

“While this Court consistently has interpreted intellectual property rights so as not to interfere with the public’s right to repair the chattels they own, the Federal Circuit opinion would allow OEMs to leverage copyright to bar independent competition for replacement parts and repair services.” The Auto Care Association’s brief urged the Supreme Court not to permit copyright protection “to API declaring code that specifies the data and functions necessary to interoperability.”

“It is critical that the Court understand the implications of permitting companies to copyright APIs in order to prevent lawful development of compatible replacement parts and to perform vehicle repairs,” said Aaron Lowe, senior vice president, regulatory and government affairs, Auto Care Association. “The courts must understand the impact on competition of software copyright issues.”

For more information about the Auto Care Association’s government affairs department and the association’s legislative initiatives, please visit autocare.org/government-affairs.

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