Sun Sets on GF-3


Friday marked the expiration of licenses issued by the American Petroleum Institute for engine oils meeting the ILSAC GF-3 passenger car motor oil specification, another step in the transition to the markets newest standard, ILSAC GF-4.

The expiration means marketers should cease packaging GF-3 oils in containers bearing APIs trademarked starburst certification symbol, meant to identify oils meeting the latest industry standards for engine protection and fuel economy. Realistically, GF-3 products bearing the starburst will remain in the market for some time, both because of the lag between packaging and sale to end users, and because of unlicensed use of the symbol.

The institute will be working to weed outunlicensed use as part of its annual international audit of motor oils.

There are normally some instances where companies use the mark without being licensed to do so, Kevin Ferrick, manager of APIs Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System, told Lube Report. We obviously dont like to see that happen, and we do what we can to prevent it.

The starburst is one of two trademarked symbols that the institute licenses for motor oils.The other is its donut, which designates oils meeting requirements for engine protection but not fuel economy. API began in November to license the donut for oils meeting GF-4s companion specification, SM, but licenses for predecessor category SL will not expire for several months.

API started licensing GF-3 oilsin July 2001, after the standard was adopted by the International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee. Last Julythe institutebegan licensing productsthat meetthe GF-4 standard, which was developed to provide improved oxidation resistance; improved deposit protection; better engine wear protection; better low-temperature performance over the life of the oil; and improved fuel efficiency.

To date, theorganization has approved 731 GF-4 oils to bear the starburst, many of them reformulations of products that were previously licensed for GF-3. But many other GF-3 oils have not been certified for meeting the GF-4 specification, as evidenced by the fact that licenses for 1,316 GF-3 products were in effect on before Friday.

Based on past experience, API expects some GF-3 oils that have not been licensed for GF-4 will nevertheless continue displaying the starburst.

In most cases, its probably just accidental, Ferrick said.

The institute monitors use of the trademarks through its annual audit, which checks documentation and performs tests on samples of 600 products pulled from saleslocations around the world. Ferrick said auditors can easily determine whether products displaying the trademarks have completed the required administrative steps, and that they find non-compliant products every year – even when the industry is not transitioning between specifications. The 2003 audit, for example, found 39 unlicensed products displaying trademarks.

In such cases, the institute notifies the supplier and allows them 30 days to rectify the situation. Most often this means completing administrative steps that should have been taken in the first place. Companies that do not comply may be ordered to recall improperly labeled containers.

If its just a matter of doing the administrative work, its a fairly simple process, Ferrick said, although it can be inconvenient to have to do it on short notice.

The audits are conducted practically year-round, so auditors are already collecting products to test for compliance with GF-4 requirements.

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