Legislation that grants consumers the right to repair their own products continues to be passed by governments around the world. This movement has been predominantly driven by environmental considerations, with consumer groups and governments keen to move towards the circular economic model – and end practices such as planned obsolescence.
But, legislators also want to ensure consumers aren’t locked in to one manufacturer when repairs are needed – and that they can fix their own product independently. This has prompted concerns from manufacturers that the Right to Repair could create scenarios where intellectual property (IP) is being compromised. Others though, such as John Deere, have taken steps to adjust with the new requirements.
Here, I’ve shared nine simple steps you can use to get ahead of these new laws and keep your customers happy, without compromising your IP.
1. Limited self-repair programmes
You should start to give customers who are comfortable completing repairs access to a limited number of parts, tools and work instructions today. Apple has already started to roll out these programmes for its latest iPhone models, initially limiting access to the most commonly repaired modules, which includes the display, battery and camera.
2. Licensing agreements
Remember that self-service repair isn’t for most people. Apple states that their programme is only designed for repairers that have the knowledge and experience to repair electronic devices. So, it has also created licensing agreements for independent third-party repair shops. These types of agreements can be used to set terms and conditions for using your repair guidelines, tools and software, giving you more control over the repair process.
3. Transparent repair documentation
You can also provide authorised repairers with access to detailed repair documentation, such as schematics, parts lists and step-by-step repair instructions. This will enable repairs to be carried out effectively, without disclosing sensitive IP details.
Both Lotus Cars and IDEX Corporation have already followed this approach by supplying 3D interactive work instructions. As well as making it easier for technicians to make the right repairs, giving them the ability to learn in the flow of work has also saved the companies millions on training.
4. Authorised spare parts sales
If your spare parts are readily available, repairers won’t feel the need to seek out alternative, third-party components. Instead, it’ll ensure repairs are being completed with high-quality components only. With this in mind, consider how you can make it as easy as possible for repairers to identify and order the parts they need. One way to do this – and improve the aftermarket service at the same time – is to deploy a digital parts catalogue that provides access to the 3D virtual designs used in product development.
5. Education initiatives
You can encourage customers to use licensed repairers by setting up training and certification programmes for authorised technicians. This will help maintain control over your IP, while also helping to ensure repair professionals are maintaining products properly and using genuine parts.
6. Controlled access to diagnostic software
Providing authorised repairers with access to diagnostic and calibration software will enable customers to have advanced repairs carried out by certified technicians – without them needing to access restricted proprietary software. You can maintain control over access to any diagnostic software through user-login portals such as that available on the Partful platform.
7. Tamper-proofing and data security
You can minimise the risk of attempts to gain unauthorised access to critical components and sensitive data by developing products with tamper-proof designs, and using embedded security. This will help maintain product integrity and protect IP from being exposed – and, in the case of connected devices, ensure compliance with regulations, such as the EU Cyber Resilience Act.
8. Transparent customer communications
Taking the above steps will help demonstrate your commitment to product longevity, sustainability and customer satisfaction – while mitigating the risks posed when third parties undertake repairs. But it also makes sense to communicate the steps being taken so customers understand the support available to them. See this as an opportunity to help build customer loyalty and emphasise the importance of carrying out repairs to the highest possible standard.
9. Secure channels for feedback
You can also use secure feedback channels to allow customers and repairers to report issues and suggest improvements about the repairs process. Not only will this demonstrate that you are listening to your customers, but it will also provide valuable insights on how you could better address product repairs, without exposing sensitive IP.
As you look to meet the demands of Right to Repair legislation, it will be essential to strike a balance between protecting IP rights and meeting growing customer expectations. And by adopting a proactive approach and taking the steps proposed above, you can navigate this complex time – and build long-term customer loyalty in the process.
However, there is still more to think about. For example, will it be economically viable for your business to provide repairers with access to specialist tools and equipment? Will you need to develop specific training to be delivered to maintainers to ensure they’re adequately competent to complete the repair work to the right standards - ensuring safe and reliable outcomes? And how will warranties be affected in the long run? Please share your thoughts with us, as we address this changing landscape together.
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