Yoshinao Yamazaki, Technical Manager
Industrial/Packaging MKT Tape Technical Dept.
Tape and Adhesive Division Technical
Sumitomo 3M Limited
3-8-8, Minami Hashimoto, Sagamihara-shi
Kanagawa 229-1185, Japan
Dear Mr. Yamazaki:
This letter responds to your e-mail asking questions regarding compliance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard, 49 CFR Part 541 (Part 541). You stated that your company has been developing a new laser marking label for motor vehicles. You stated that the label has two features to prevent forgery: (1) It is made of a brittle film that makes it impossible to remove the label without blemishing or scratching it, and (2) the logo of the car company appears on the label to authenticate the brand. You then ask three questions. First, you ask whether this label meets the requirements of Part 541. Second, you ask if there are any specifications for evaluating this type of label. Third, you ask whether three types of logos would satisfy the labeling requirement. The three types of logos you describe include a logo that is printed on the labels surface and is covered with a protective transparent top layer, a logo that is indented in the transparent top layer, and a logo that is imbedded in the transparent top layer. The issues raised by your letter are addressed below.
NHTSA does not provide approvals or endorsements of specific labels. Our opinion is based on the facts provided in your e-mail, which have been outlined above, and on the analysis presented below.
By way of background, Part 541 requires that certain passenger motor vehicles have identifying numbers affixed or inscribed on certain specified parts. See 541.5(a). Part 541 also sets forth a number of labeling requirements for affixing the identifying number to a part. See 541.5(d) and (d)(1). These requirements are also generally applicable to the labeling of replacement parts. See 541.6(a). Pertinent to your inquiry, section 541.5(d)(1)(v)-(viii) requires:
(v) Removal of the label must
(A) Cause the label to self-destruct by tearing or rendering the number on the label illegible, and
(B) Discernibly alter the appearance of that area of the part where the label was affixed by leaving residual parts of the label or adhesive in that area, so that investigators will have evidence that a label was originally present.
(vi) Alteration of the number on the label must leave traces of the original number or otherwise visibly alter the appearance of the label material.
(vii) The label and the number shall be resistant to counterfeiting.
(viii) The logo or some other unique identifier of the vehicle manufacturer must be placed in the material of the label in a manner such that alteration or removal of the logo visibly alters the appearance of the label.
In response to your first inquiry regarding whether your new laser marking label satisfies the requirements of Part 541, our general answer is that we do not provide approvals of motor vehicle equipment. However, your description of the fragility of the label appears to indicate that it would comply with the requirements in section 541.5(d)(1)(v)(A) regarding destruction of the label. Your description provides no information regarding the requirements in section 541.5(d)(1)(v)(B) regarding whether removal of the label discernibly alters the appearance of the area of the part where the label was affixed and section 541.5(d)(1)(vi) regarding whether alteration of the label leaves traces of the original number or otherwise visibly alters the appearance of the label. Finally, although you claim that the fragility of the label makes it resistant to reuse for counterfeiting, section 541.5(d)(1)(vii), the provision concerning counterfeiting, addresses more than the ability to reuse the label. Under section 541.5(d)(1)(vii), the label must also be designed in a manner that makes it extremely difficult for an unauthorized person to systematically duplicate it.
In response to your second inquiry, all of the specifications for evaluating these type of labels appear in Part 541, particularly in section 541.5(d). We have stated that these general criteria are sufficient to alert label manufacturers what is required. See 50 FR 43174 (Oct. 24, 1985).
In response to your third inquiry regarding the placement of the logo on the label, again we note that we do not provide approvals of motor vehicle equipment. Moreover, section 541.5(d)(1)(viii) does not set forth any requirements regarding the manner in which the logo must be placed in the material of the label. As long as the logo is placed in the material of the label in such a manner that alteration or removal of the logo would visibly alter the appearance of the label, it does not matter how the logo is placed in the material.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact David Jasinski of my office at (202) 366-2992.
O. Kevin Vincent