#5 – Forcing Manufacturers to Give Up Competitive Secrets

What’s so iAWFUL?

Legislation requiring manufacturers to disclosure of trade secrets and expose supply chains threatens devices’ security systems and could result in consumers accidentally voiding warranties.

(MN HF 1078)

When you buy a piece of tech, it is yours. You can use it, personalize it, or resell it. It is yours to do with as you wish. And as long as you use it in a reasonable fashion, manufacturers will make repairs and take back defects.

But some third-party repair shops think just because something is purchased, they are entitled to a copy of the source code that makes it work and access to the proprietary supply chains for the parts. This sense of entitlement made its way into a Minnesota bill.

HF 1078 would make it easier for criminals to break through security locks

If passed, HF 1078 would require manufacturers to disclose technical manuals exposing trade secrets and IP — making it easier for criminals to break through security locks.  It would require manufacturers to give access to proprietary supply chains and to proprietary components. Manufacturers often use proprietary parts to prevent unauthorized tampering that could disable a safety device.  Take for example the CPU on a car — if codes to circumvent the protection are disclosed, bad actors could misuse this information.

The limitations that HF 1078 seeks to overrule are not only for security and safety, but existing limitations protect the consumer from accidentally violating a warranty. Many manufacturers will not accept returns, or make repairs if the consumer, or in this case a “repair shop,” tampers with the device.  Once the warranty is void – it is void.  If an unauthorized repair shop tampers with a device and voids a warranty, it’s the manufacturer who delivers the bad news to consumers, hurting their reputation and poisoning the consumer against future purchases.

As devices become more and more complicated, manufacturers should be allowed reasonable restrictions to prevent the unauthorized people from tampering with our devices.

The iAWFUL reflects the editorial views of the Executive Director of NetChoice and does not necessarily reflect the views of all NetChoice members.

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