OEM Trademarks in the AfterMarket: Exploring the Boundaries
While there are certainly limits on how—and how much—aftermarket sellers can use OEM trademarks to communicate key information about aftermarket parts, the legal boundaries for aftermarket sellers are not always clear. And, in the automotive industry, the question of legal boundaries is perhaps most intriguing when the trademark concerned is one of product configuration. Indeed, several U.S. auto companies own incontestable trademarks registrations for various source-identifying parts of their automobiles such as grilles, headlights, and fenders. In light of such perpetual trademark rights in these part configurations, how can aftermarket sellers offer visually identical replacement grilles, headlights or fenders without significant risk of a trademark infringement claim from the auto companies?