IP vs. the right to repair: deciphering the legal conundrum

As the demand for a comprehensive “right to repair” legislation gains momentum in different parts of the world, ARYAVEER HOODA and PRIYA RAGHUVANSHI examine the current legal position in this sphere, cemented by piecemeal legislation and a few judicial precedents.


THE “right to repair”, in the simplest of terms, can be expounded as a “freedom” – i.e., whether a consumer has the freedom to fix one’s property on his own or to choose their service provider, instead of compulsorily going back to the manufacturer. The right to repair movement has advanced in the past few years and is spreading its roots into society.

The movement transformed itself into a social movement because of increasing consumer frustration, since the repair monopoly is not limited to a single industry. It has made its way through the electronics and smartphones market too, marking a documented statement: “I can take it apart and fix it if I want. If I want to throw it in the river, if I want to paint it pink, I can do that.”

The consumer frustration emanated from the repressive monopolistic exercises of manufacturers. Manufacturers have systematically been tightening their control on the repair market by allowing repairs and access to spare parts, only to the authorised repair personnel of the company, making it nearly impossible for independent repairmen and third-party repair service providers to access spare parts.

Apple escalated the anti-repair practices with the newly launched iPhone 13, which is almost impossible to repair outside an Apple Store. Even if one uses authentic Apple parts, the software will block different features and the functionality of your iPhone unless the repair is authenticated by the software exclusive to Apple.

Moreover, the oppressive policies of the companies in which you lose out on warranty or could possibly infringe their copyright, if you have repaired your device outside the prescribed network, gives the manufacturers complete control over the market and restricts the consumers’ right to choose a service provider. Furthermore, manufacturers have periodically issued cease-and-desist…