Judge Rules Mahindra Roxor Too Similar to Jeep, FCA Will Push for Stop-Sale Order in US
Looks like a rough road ahead for the plucky Roxor.
Ever since the Indian automaker Mahindra announced plans to sell its extremely Jeep-like Roxor off-roader in America, Fiat-Chrysler's been aiming to stop it. It's been a two-year legal fight so far, but now Jeep's parent company appears to be winning as a judge with the United States International Trade Commission has decided the Mahindra Roxor infringes on Jeep's trade dress—i.e. the visual touches that give a copyrighted product its unique appearance—in six key areas.
This isn't the same thing as a final court ruling, as Carscoops reports, so now FCA will ask the United States International Trade Commission to confirm Judge Elliott's conclusions. Should that happen, and there's little to suggest it won't at this point, cease-and-desist and exclusion orders against Mahindra are expected by March 13, 2020 following a 60-day review period. The former means Mahindra won't be able to sell them here, while the latter means it and any other entity will be barred from importing them at all.
"FCA US is pleased that an Administrative Law Judge... has found that the Mahindra Roxor vehicle infringes the iconic trade dress of the Jeep brand," the automaker said in a statement to Carscoops. "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."
Unsurprisingly given the striking resemblance, Jeep's parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles took issue with the following: The Roxor's boxy body shape with flat vertical sides, rear body panels that are roughly the same height as the hood, the door cut-outs that go above the bottom of the side, exterior hood latches, a mostly flat and rounded-edge hood tapering toward the front, the "4.5-slot" grille itself, and the trapezoidal flared fenders that extend past the grille.
Mahindra has been marketing the Roxor as a fun off-roader—think of it as a unique alternative to a side-by-side—based on the Jeep CJ the Indian automaker originally licensed to build in India in 1947, with the most recent renewal of that agreement coming in 2009. Since it's not legal for road use here in America, Mahindra claims it's not a real competitor to modern Jeeps. It's also been substantially updated, with a newer turbodiesel engine, a new transmission and a box steel frame that weren't included on the original CJ.
Wondering how Mahindra thought it would slip the Roxor past Jeep? A legal loophole, for one. When it renewed that licensing agreement for the Indian market in 2009, it was also considering selling a mid-size SUV called the Scorpio in America as its first product here with a very Jeep-like seven-slot grille. FCA and Mahindra signed a deal okaying the Mahindra Scorpio with a different five-slot grille in exchange for FCA not taking legal action against it. The Scorpio never made it over, but the agreement remains active, and in January Mahindra tried to argue it protects the Roxor using the okayed 4.5-slot grille. The U.S. International Trade Commission disagreed and allowed FCA's intellectual property case to proceed, leading to this most recent ruling.
The Drive has reached out to Mahindra as to what their next steps will be, but has not received a response at the time of this writing.
UPDATE [Dec. 2]: A Mahindra spokesperson sent us the following statement from Mahindra Automotive North America Vice President of Marketing Richard Ansell:
Concerning the recent ITC ruling; We’ll let the legal process play out but we remain confident in our position so it’s business as usual for ROXOR. We have plans in place to ensure ROXOR will continue to set a standard in the Side X Side segment for years to come.
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