Historic win for Australian automotive industry

A Federal Court decision has boosted the multi-billion dollar automotive sector.

After two years? research, Melbourne businessman Tony Ottobre developed a new way of making LED rear lights for trucks and trailers that improved quality and halved the cost. In June 2004, he registered his designs under the Commonwealth?s New Designs Act 2003. His lights were a hit with truck and trailer manufacturers and his total sales for the period 2003 to 2008 topped $34 million.

His breakthrough design has influenced the automotive light emitting diode (LED) industry in Australia. His firm LED Technologies was the first in Australia to introduce a five-year warranty, and more recently a lifetime warranty, and derive its income solely from LED products.
In November 2006, a China-made copy of Mr Ottobre?s design appeared on the Australian market, selling for 20 per cent less than Mr Ottobre?s products. The copy had the potential to cost LED Technologies millions of dollars in lost sales and damage the excellent reputation of the business and its products. In a test case, Mr Ottobre used the New Designs Act 2003 to sue an importer and distributors for copying his product and selling it in Australia.

After two years in the Federal Court and $900,000 in legal fees, Mr Ottobre in February won a landmark decision for his business and all makers and sellers of Australian-designed goods. His win sets a precedent that protects Australian-designed automotive parts and products from ?predatory copycat practices.

?Copies have been undermining the ?manufacture and sale of Australian-designed parts and products for years,? Mr Ottobre said. ?Someone had to take a stand. I was determined to fight for my business. It?s taken two years but we?re now protected. This is a huge win not just for my business but for all makers and ?sellers of Aussie-designed goods.?

The New Designs Act 2003 includes the wording ?substantially similar?.

?Many people in the automotive ?industry seem to think you can copy another ?product so long as 10 per cent of it is ?different,? Mr Ottobre said. ?This is not the case and has now been confirmed by this ruling.?

Justice Michelle Gordon ruled Ren ?International and distributors Olsen ?Industries, Advanced Automotive Australia and Elecspess had infringed Mr Ottobre?s registered Australian designs and contravened sections of the Trade Practices Act 1974 by manufacturing, importing and selling in Australia a copy, known as the Condor.

On February 24, 2009, she barred Ren International and the distributors from ?directly or indirectly making, ?importing, selling or offering for sale? any ?automotive lamps that are ?identical to or ?substantially similar in overall impression? to Mr ?Ottobre?s registered Australian designs. She ordered Ren International and its ?distributors to pay LED Technologies $200,000 in damages.

Source: Industry Search

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