A judge has ruled in favor of Fiat Chrysler in their case against Indian off-road vehicle manufacturer, Mahindra.
The Mahindra Roxor looks a lot like a Jeep Wrangler. There’s a very good reason for this: Mahindra made Jeep CJs under licensed for decades. When the license lapsed in India, the Jeep brand was being bounced around several companies, so Mahindra didn’t have anyone to go to in order to request an extension. They just kept making Jeep knockoffs the same as they always had.
Eventually, Jeep settled with Fiat Chrysler and didn’t care much about not-Jeeps being sold in India. But then, Mahindra decided to try to sell their Roxor off-road vehicle in North America, Jeep’s biggest market.
Jeep argued that the Roxor infringes on the Wrangler copyright, or “trade dress” in legal parlance. Mahindra argued that since the Roxor is marketed specifically for use off-road and can’t legally be driven on public roadways, the Roxor isn’t competing with Jeep and therefore there’s no case to be made.
That was last year, and as is always the case with these legal battles, the initial results have only just been made available. Administrative Law Judge Cameron Elliot found the Mahindra Roxor violates Jeep’s trade dress and has recommended a block on Roxor sales in the United States.
Specifically, the Roxor takes six elements of the Wrangler: the exterior hood latches, the rounded hood, the boxy body shape, the door cutouts that stop above the side body panels, the round headlamps, and the vertical grille slats.
In court, Mahindra Automotive North America CEO and President Rick Haas admitted that Roxor "has the appearance of a CJ" and then said it is "actually a CJ." Which probably didn’t help his case any.
In a statement to Carscoops, FCA said it “is pleased that an Administrative Law Judge at the United States International Trade Commission has found that the Mahindra Roxor vehicle infringes the iconic trade dress of the Jeep brand. FCA US believes the evidence and relevant law all strongly support the ALJ’s determination that Mahindra has engaged in unfair trade practices, and that Mahindra’s infringement was harming or likely to harm the Jeep brand and FCA US.”
However, this is just an initial determination. FCA will now ask the United States International Trade Commission to confirm the recommendation, and if all goes well, the block against Mahindra will be in place by March of 2020.