Jeep, FCA Win Court Victory Against Mahindra Roxor
The automotive world got a rare look at American auto policy last fall when General Motors filed a racketeering lawsuit against Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) for allegedly bribing officials UAW in order to undermine it. But, the automotive world being a complex place, it was not the only legal action that FCA knew during the last holiday season: on behalf of the Jeep brand, it obtained an interim victory in its business of International Trade Commission offense against Roxor de Mahindra, which we can all agree is watching a lot like an old Jeep. This week’s victory became final, with the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) ordering Mahindra to stop production and sales of the Roxor as it is currently designed.
The provisional finding issued by the USITC last fall required confirmation to be applied; that’s what happened this week. The new findings corroborate the previous preliminary ruling, confirming that Roxor’s resemblance to Jeep Chief Justice constitutes a violation of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930. The result is a limited exclusion order (LEO) which will prevent any new imports of Roxor or its components, and a cease and desist order (CDO) to prevent further use of the fake likeness.
The Roxor is a side-by-side off-road vehicle that is not intended to be approved on the street. It is manufactured by Mahindra & Mahindra LLC, through its Mahindra Automotive North America branch. At the origin of FCA’s complaint was the marked resemblance of the Roxor to a Jeep CJ, despite an agreement between Mahindra and Jeep in 2009 which authorized the first to use a pre-approved and slightly modified version of the grille design signature of the latter for his Scorpion vehicle. Roxor had planned to sell the Scorpion to the United States.
The FCA complaint was filed with the USITC in August 2018. The complaint alleged violations of Jeep’s intellectual property by the appropriation of its “trade dress”, a legal term referring to general appearance, packaging or branding of a product. Mahindra tried to make the Roxor look like a Jeep for 2020, but it didn’t go far enough, it seems.
Update: We haven’t heard of FCA yet, but our sister publication Car received the following Mahindra’s statement:
The International Trade Commission affirmed the administrative law judge’s decision that ROXOR did not infringe any of the FCA trademarks, but it violated the FCA trade dress and recommended an import prohibition order Roxor parts and a cease and desist order prohibiting the sale of any Roxor parts already imported. The Company and Mahindra Automotive North America, a subsidiary of the Company (“MANA”) remain committed to their position that ROXOR does not dilute or violate the commercial appearance of Jeep. MANA is therefore considering its options with respect to a re-examination and an appeal from the ITC determination both during the presidential review phase of the ITC decision and at the Federal Court of Appeal. The vehicle subject to the action was produced in 2018 and 2019 and is no longer in production. The ROXOR design has been updated for the 2020 model year and other design changes are underway as part of the normal design cycle. MANA remains committed to the ROXOR brand, its employees and its dealers.