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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Automatic emergency call devices in all new car models from spring 2018

Automatic emergency call devices in all new car models from spring 2018: The European Parliament's press release reads -
"Emergency call devices that automatically alert rescue services to car crashes (eCall) will have to be fitted to all new models of cars and light vans by 31 March 2018 under rules voted by European Parliament on Tuesday. Road accidents took 25,700 lives in the EU in 2014 – a death toll that the new devices could cut by an estimated 10% a year.
"Deploying the 112-based eCall in-vehicle emergency system across the EU will help to improve road safety in all 28 member states. The European Parliament has repeatedly stressed that reducing deaths and the severity of injuries on the roads is its priority. eCall as a public service, free of charge for all citizens, irrespective of the type of vehicle or its purchase price, will contribute to this common goal", said rapporteur Olga Sehnalov√° (S&D, CZ).
The eCall in-vehicle system uses 112 emergency call technology to alert the emergency services to serious road accidents automatically. This enables them to decide immediately on the type and size of rescue operation needed, which in turn helps them to arrive faster, save lives, reduce the severity of injuries and cut the cost of traffic jams.
Data privacy: no vehicle tracking
MEPs strengthened the draft law’s data protection clause to preclude tracking of eCall-equipped vehicle before the accident occurs. Under the new rules, the automatic call would give the emergency services only basic minimum data, such as the type of vehicle, the fuel used, the time of the accident, the exact location and the number of passengers.
The rules say eCall data gathered by emergency centres or their service partners must not be transferred to third parties without explicit consent of the person concerned. Manufacturers will also have to ensure that the eCall technology design permits full and permanent deletion of data gathered.
Ready from spring 2018
All new models of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles will have to be equipped with the eCall system as of 31 March 2018. MEPs also secured an obligation for the European Commission to assess, in the three years after spring 2018, whether eCall devices should be included in other vehicles, such as buses, coaches or trucks.
These new rules set out obligations for car manufacturers. Separate rules, governing the infrastructure that EU member states must put in place by 1 October 2017 to process eCalls, entered into to force at the end of June 2014.
Next step
Parliament’s vote ends the EU legislative procedure. The regulation will enter into force on the twentieth day after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. "



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Another Chinese clone, this time with a retro feel

Automotive news reports that Mercedes G-Wagen is the latest victim in China's clone wars. At least the Evoque is a new design - it seems strange to go back to such an old vehicle as the G-Wagen, which I remember driving as a battle-bus in Enfield North in the 1987 general election. Could it really have been so long ago? It had a turning circle comparable to that of an oil tanker.

JLR gave up on the Evoque copy as a bad job, noting that there was nothing in Chinese law which would help them. Mercedes, presumably, have less ground for complaint because the have to assume that even if there ever had been any rights in the design, they would have expired by now. Unless they could rely on copyright, of course, but that is an unreliable way to protect designs of anything, but especially motor vehicles, and particularly functional-looking ones.

This time the copyist is Beijing Automotive, which is where the story becomes complicated - they are Mercedes's local joint venture partner in China. Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but it doesn't seem that Mercedes see it that way, and the problem is as much a political one as a legal one.

 

Monday, 27 April 2015

Right to repair your four-wheeled computer


According to this story in WIRED (hat-tip to Warwick Rothnie for posting it on Facebook) John Deere and General Motors are trying to change the very idea of ownership, of tractors and cars at any rate. Actually, personal leasing plans in the motor sector (and, no doubt, similar arrangements in the agricultural machinery sector) have already years ago changed the ownership equation, but in a rather different and direct way than what is described here.

The simple fact is that, because vehicles rely increasingly on software to operate them, the owner of the hardware is beholden to the owner of the copyright in the software running on it. As with computers, so with tractors and cars. To characterise this as the manufacturer retaining ownership of the hardware is at best hyperbole, at worst downright wrong. But it nevertheless appears to pose problems for owners in the USA.

Would it happen here? I think not. First, an owner deprived of the ability to repair his or her car or tractor (or anything else) would be able to refer to the House of Lords decision in that great case, British Leyland Motor Corp & Ors v Armstrong Patents Company Ltd & Ors [1986] UKHL 7 (27 February 1986) where their Lordships (or at least a majority of them) held that the owner of a motor car had the right to repair it as economically as possible, and that to use intellectual property rights to thwart the owner was a derogation from grant which the courts would refuse to uphold. And since 1986, the software directive has introduced several provisions (in particular section 50A and 50C of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988) to permit "reverse engineering" of software and the fixing of problems with it. So, between those two pieces of law, one judge-made and the other statutory, I don't see much to worry about: except, of course, for the fact that if a large multinational leans on an individual car-owner or farmer there is a good chance that they will prevail regardless of the merits of their legal case.

For more see Autoblog.com, Automakers to gearheads: Stop repairing cars

Friday, 24 April 2015

Mercedes fined 350 million yuan ($56 million) for price fixing in China


The National Development and Reform Commission in Jiangsu province in eastern China (close to Shanghai) fined Daimler's Mercedes-Benz 350 million yuan ($56 million) for a pricing monopoly there. The fine is the highest imposed yet on carmakers probed by the government last year for antitrust violations, and this is the last case arising from those investigations. Some Mercedes dealers were reportedly fined 7.7 million yuan in addition.
The NDRC said the carmaker had set minimum sales prices for E-class and S-class cars, and for some spare parts, and given warnings to dealers who did not comply. It had violated anti-monopoly law, damaging fair market competition and harming consumer rights. The regulator said in an official statement: "The investigation found Mercedes-Benz and its dealers in Jiangsu came to and carried out monopoly agreements to cap the lowest sales prices of E-class, S-class models and certain spare parts." Had infringements in other provinces also been found, the fine could have been much greater.
As we have reported in the past, China has been clamping down on the sector, punishing foreign automakers for price fixing for the first time last year when it fined the Chinese venture of Volkswagen and a sales unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Chrysler division a combined $46 million. The regulator has denied that it is discriminating against foreign companies.
Last year, China found 12 Japanese parts-makers guilty of price fixing and imposed fines totalling 1.24 billion yuan, the biggest antitrust penalties in the China since new rules came into effect seven years ago.
The story is on the Automotive News Europe and Financial Times websites.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Another alleged lookalike: Lincoln and Bentley

With Jaguar Land Rover finding that Chinese law doesn't really help them when it comes to stopping Landwind and their Evoque lookalike, Bentley have also been complaining that the new Lincoln Continental Concept looks a bit too much like their Flying Spur. The story, with photos of the cars, is on Automotive News here. Here is the Lincoln Continental Concept website and here is the Flying Spur one, where you can see for yourself how similar they are - or aren't. The simple fact is that the constraints under which car designers are obliged to operate mean that cars are inevitably going to look more and more alike. There is still a reasonable amount of design freedom, of course, but the designers of these two cars were no doubt working to similar briefs and were bound to come up with something similar. And anyway, who cares much whether their car looks similar to another? The badges are far more important.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Price discrimination in the new car market

Are car brands illegally giving better deals to business users? asked Auto Express, in August last year when clearly I wasn't paying enough attention. Illegally? Really? How?

I was surprised to see that it came down to the old Supply of New Cars Order 2000 (SI No 2088), which became law in the wake of the last Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the car market. One of the bad practices identified by the MMC was selling at greater discounts to fleet purchasers than to dealers, a practice which Article 2 prohibited, making due allowance (although it really is a very woolly piece of legislation) for the fact that one important driver of prices is volume.

The Auto Express article focuses on leasing customers being charged different amounts, depending on their occupation, which seems to me to be a very different matter. I don't quite understand how this is supposed to fit within the Article, nor how the magazine (or the BBC's You and Yours show) can say that the doctor to whom they refer, or anyone else, is paying more 'than they should'. I'm not sure myself how a doctor could be a worse risk than a self-employed person (and incidentally are not many doctors self-employed?), which presumably is why they should have to pay more, but surely that is for the leasing company to work out.

I am however grateful for the reminder that the Order remains in force!

USA: GM ignition-switch death claims rise by 3 to 87

GM ignition-switch death claims rise by 3 to 87,  reports Automotive News. I don't pass on every story on this depressing topic, and of course the death toll, horrible as it is, isn't the legal story here, but it is the context in which the rules about recalls in the USA are being debated.

Jaguar Land Rover forced to concede Jiangling's Evoque look-alike

Automotive News Europe reports that Jaguar Land Rover has been forced to accept a Range Rover Evoque lookalike made by Chinese manufacturer Jiangling. The Financial Times also has the story: it also has a story about US warnings about the effect of weak intellectual property protection in China. It seems like a simple matter of inadequate legal protection: here, and in much of the world, there would be copyright, design and trade mark infringements and either passing off or unfair competition claims. Surely some of those would run in China too? If not, one might ask what on earth a European manufacturer is doing, exposing itself to that sort of risk in the Chinese market - to which the answer is, no doubt, that they can't afford not to be in the Chinese market. In any case, absence from that market would not prevent copying - indeed, it would have left a gap that the copyists might have filled even more readily. And at least JLR have secured a slice of the action: the cachet of having the real thing might sustain them a bit longer, too.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Aston Martin sues former designer for trademark infringement, settles

Another report from World Intellectual Property Review:  Aston Martin sued Henrik Fisker, who worked for them as design director from 2001 to 2004, over his projected Thunderbolt car which had so many features that Aston thought similar to theirs that it would infringe its intellectual property rights. These included the 'wings' logo and the design of a grille and side vent.
Fisker allegedly approached the company in November last year about collaborating on the project, but the manufacturer turned him down.However, he proceeded to show a prototype at the Florida-based car show Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in Florida, on 14 March, which resulted in the proceedings being issued.
Now a press release announces:
The parties are pleased to report that they have been able to swiftly and amicably resolve their differences.
The terms of the resolution are confidential except that the Parties wish to confirm 3 points:
1. Henrik Fisker has decided that "Project Thunderbolt" will not be produced;
2. Aston Martin will withdraw the lawsuit; and
3. In view of some apparent misunderstandings surrounding reports of the case, the Parties wish to expressly confirm that the contentions made by AML were those, and only those, made in the lawsuit. The Parties confirm that that they have amicably resolved those matters, as well as any attendant misunderstandings.
The Parties will not be commenting further.

Deloitte sees record FRC fine of £14m over MG Rover role slashed to £3m - 13 Apr 2015 - Accountancy Age

Deloitte sees record FRC fine of £14m over MG Rover role slashed to £3m - 13 Apr 2015 - Accountancy Age: "DELOITTE has had its record £14m fine - imposed on it for its controversial role in the collapse of MG Rover - slashed to £3m after it successfully overturned a series of charges of misconduct laid against it by the profession's watchdog."



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Saturday, 11 April 2015

Georgia dealership group sues Shelby American over sales leads

Georgia dealership group sues Shelby American over sales leads: "Shelby American Inc. has been hit with a lawsuit alleging the company deliberately violated a retail sales agreement with Stephen Becker Automotive Group, a Suwanee, Ga., dealership group.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday, alleges that Shelby American began to sell cars directly to the public in December 2014."



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Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Speed limits - GOV.UK

The national speed limit for HGVs (over 7.5 tonnes) has been increased (fom yesterday) from 40mph to 50mph on
single carriageways, and from 50mph to 60mph on dual carriageways. Full information on all limits can be found on this page.  The legislation is the Motor Vehicles (Variation of Speed Limits) (England and Wales) Regulations 2014 which can be found on here.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

US court rules Ford’s Sync system did not infringe patent

World Intellectual Property Review reports that a jury at the US District Court for the Western District of Washington has given Ford a double victory in its dispute with Eagle Harbor Holdings, ruling that Ford did not infringe four patents owned by EHH and that its trade secrets were misappropriated.
The four patents owned by the technology licensing company cover technology used in a car computer system. EHH claimed that Ford’s Sync computer system, used in its Focus and C-Max models, infringed its patents. Ford counterclaimed for invalidity and also alleged that its trade secrets had been misappropriated.
To of the patents were held to be invalid, and the other two were not infringed.
The trade secrets claim revolved around a Ford document which had been in the possession of MediusTech, a subsdiary of EHH, when it was working as an adviser for Navox, a technology company that worked with Ford to develop the Sync system. Ford said EHH knew the information in the document was confidential, but used it to obtain a patent.