The legal battle between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Mahindra is heating up as Administrative Law Judge Cameron Elliot has determined the Mahindra Roxor infringes on the look of Jeep vehicles.
The case has many facets, but FCA was primarily concerned the Roxor uses six features – known as “trade dress” – that are distinctively Jeep. These include: exterior hood latches, “door cutouts above the bottom portion of the side body panels,” and a “boxy body shape with flat appearing vertical side and rear body panels ending at about the same height as the hood.”
The company also noted the Roxor’s “hood is substantially flat with curved side edges that taper to be narrower at the front” and there are “trapezoidal front wheel wells with front fenders or fender flares that extend beyond the front of the grille.” The grille has also been a big issue and FCA pointed out it is “flat with vertical elongated grille slots and a trapezoidal outline that curves around round headlamps position on the upper part of the grille.”
In a deposition, Mahindra Automotive North America CEO and President Rick Haas didn’t deny this as he said the Roxor “has the appearance of a [Jeep] CJ” and added the model “does look like a CJ.” He went onto claim the Roxor is “actually a CJ” and stated “everyone understands that our vehicle is a CJ.” However, he admitted “The CJ is a Jeep brand vehicle.”
Following arguments and presentations from both sides, Administrative Law Judge Cameron Elliot found the Roxor violates Jeep’s trade dress. As a result, he recommended the United States International Trade Commission grant FCA’s limited exclusion order that covers the Roxor and its components. The judge also recommended a cease-and-desist order to prevent Mahindra from selling Roxors in the United States.
In a statement, the automaker told us “FCA US 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.”
FCA added, “The ALJ has determined Mahindra violated 19 U.S.C. Section 1337 and that an order excluding infringing vehicles and components from entry into the U.S. is appropriate. In addition, the ALJ has also determined that a cease-and-desist order is appropriate preventing Mahindra from selling any vehicles already in the U.S.”
While the decision is pretty damning for Mahindra, it’s just an initial determination. FCA will now ask the United States International Trade Commission to “confirm the ALJ’s conclusions on the Jeep Trade Dress.” If this happens, the automaker expects the exclusion and cease-and-desist orders will be issued by March 13th, 2020. FCA says the cease-and-desist order will go into force upon issuance, while the exclusion order will go into effect after a 60-day Presidential review period.
If that wasn’t enough bad news for Mahindra, FCA also told us it is pursuing a separate infringement case against the Roxor in the United States District Court of Eastern Michigan. In this case, FCA is “seeking an injunction to prohibit future sales of infringing vehicles, as well as disgorgement of Mahindra’s profits from the infringing Roxor.” A trial is scheduled to start in May of 2020.