Warranties as Effective Marketing Tools

Warranties: An Effective Marketing Tool

Warranties May Be Automatic

When a business sells goods, under the various State versions of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), implied warranties attach to the goods sold – unless the UCC’s implied warranties are specifically disclaimed in writing. If your company sells goods to customers in various States and some defective goods were discovered subsequent to the sale, one or more State’s version of the UCC’s implied warranties will apply. In the event of litigation, attorneys for each party will argue for the most favorable jurisdiction and venue. You, as the seller, could be forced to defend a legal action in the buyer’s home venue.

As a general rule, warranties are not applied to services supplied by the company supplying the service. For instance, no warranty is implied by law for a business that assists customers with the purchase of insurance policies, unless that business makes a warranty to the customer.

The Legal Aspects of Implied Warranties

Merchantability

The UCC’s Implied Warranty of Merchantability, in part, reads: “(1) Unless excluded or modified (Section 2-316), a warranty that the goods shall be merchantable is implied in a contract for their sale if the seller is a merchant with respect to goods of that kind. Under this section, the serving for value of food or drink to be consumed either on the premises or elsewhere is a sale…”

Fitness for a Particular Purpose

The UCC’s Implied Warranty of Fitness for a Particular Purpose reads: “Where the seller at the time of contracting has reason to know any particular purpose for which the goods are required and that the buyer is relying on the seller’s skill or judgment to select or furnish suitable goods, there is unless excluded or modified under the next section an implied warranty that the goods shall be fit for such purpose.”

Warranty of Title and Against Infringement

The UCC’s Warranty of Title and Against Infringement reads, “(1) Subject to subsection (2) there is in a contract for sale a warranty by the seller that (a) the title conveyed shall be good, and its transfer rightful; and (b) the goods shall be delivered free from any security interest or other lien or encumbrance of which the buyer at the time of contracting has no knowledge.  (2) A warranty under subsection (1) will be excluded or modified only by specific language or by circumstances which give the buyer reason to know that the person selling does not claim title in himself or that he is purporting to sell only such right or title as he or a third person may have.  (3) Unless otherwise agreed a seller who is a merchant regularly dealing in goods of the kind warrants that the goods shall be delivered free of the rightful claim of any third person by way of infringement or the like but a buyer who furnishes specifications to the seller must hold the seller harmless against any such claim which arises out of compliance with the specifications.”

How to Eliminate Implied Warranties

In the majority of instances, the only way to eliminate the application of the various States’ versions of the Uniform Commercial Code to the sale of your company’s goods is to specifically disclaim the UCC’s implied warranties in writing.

Warranty Use as a Marketing Tool

Patented Product vs. Generic Product

As CEO of your company, you believe that invention is the lifeblood of the company and you have budgeted ten percent of annual sales for development, improvement and Patent procurement for the company’s new products. The company’s engineers have developed the third-generation widget which is patented and has also just received FDA approval. The company’s second-generation widget’s Patent expired years earlier and is currently manufactured by generic company competitors. Users of the second generation widget love the operation of the second generation widget manufactured by your generic competitors. Those users also like the price that is several thousand dollars less than what your company sold the second generation widget for before the Patent expired. Other than the UCC’s implied warranties and any other warranty required by law, the generic manufacturers offer no other warranties.

Competing with Generics

Your company’s patented third-generation widget includes radio frequency capabilities, memory, processing means, sensors, etc. not included in your second generation widget. FDA testing revealed that over a span of years, the patented third-generation widget is more durable than the second generation widget. The third generation widget performs healthcare functions impossible for the second generation widget to perform. Costs of the patented third-generation widget to the user are thousands of dollars more than the generic second-generation widget. Your company struggles to have its patented third-generation widget regain and improve its former market share previously achieved with its second generation widget.

Improving Market Share With Warranties

To improve the company’s market share of its patented third-generation widget, the CEO took instruction from the motor vehicle industry. The CEO opted to provide a ten year “bumper to bumper” warranty and commenced advertising that the patented third-generation widget was sold under warranty. The advertisement touted a limited ten-year warranty and superior performance compared to other widgets. Over the years, the marketplace has revealed that for high “price point” goods, generous warranties can improve sales.

Limited Warranties in Lieu of UCC Warranties

A business can offer a limited “bumper to bumper” warranty for its new product while expressly disclaiming the States’ Uniform Commercial Code’s implied warranties and other conditions. Depending on the type of goods and other facts, it is also possible for a business to expressly place limits on liability.

If you have questions about intellectual properties, warranties, and disclaimers, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business and intellectual properties.

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