— Fiat Chrysler (FCA US) has filed a formal complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to investigate a company called Mahindra & Mahindra for allegedly ripping off the design and look of Jeep vehicles.
Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. and Mahindra Automotive North America, Inc. allegedly violate trademark and design laws by importing and selling an off-road vehicle called the ROXOR (pictured right) that just so happens to look similar to a Jeep.
In fact, Mahindra promotes the ROXOR as a vehicle “modeled” on the “Willys Jeep.”
Mahindra introduced the ROXOR in March 2018 when the company said the "knocked down kits" would be imported to the U.S. where they would be assembled at a Michigan manufacturing plant and sold by dealers in the U.S. The current version of the ROXOR is advertised for off-road use only, but Mahindra allegedly has plans to import and sell street-legal versions.
While Mahindra calls them "utility vehicles," Chrysler says they look nothing like a typical utility vehicle common in the U.S. The ROXORs are about the same size of Jeep CJ models and are heavier and larger than normal utility vehicles. FCA says consumers will be easily confused and will blame Chrysler for any problems or injuries caused by the Mahindra vehicles.
The Jeep CJ (Civilian Jeep) was sold from 1945 until the mid-1980s when it was followed by the Jeep Wrangler, and according to Chrysler the Jeeps have distinct designs that distinguish them from every other vehicle.
FCA knew the look was unique and in May 2011 filed an application with the government to register the Jeep profile design as a "mark" for the Jeep CJ and Wrangler. The automaker also registered in August 2010 the grille design for use in connection with the headlights.
According to the request for a federal investigation, the CJ and Wrangler have certain features that automatically tell the public the vehicles are Jeeps.
FCA says the rear body panels end at about the same height as the flat hood with curved edges that taper to a narrow front. In addition, the Jeep is known for its "boxy" shape and a flat grille that has long vertical slots. The front outline also curves around the circular headlights located on the upper part of the grille.
Based on the complaint sent to the Trade Commission, there are numerous other parts of a Jeep that make it recognizable to the public as a Jeep manufactured only by Chrysler.
The automaker says even media reports indicate the confusion caused by the Mahindra design, such as when the Detroit News wrote there were “inevitable comparisons to Jeeps past and present” because few “would need more than a glance to see Jeep in Roxor’s four-and-a-half bar grille, its stubby nose and muscular stance.”
FCA says the automaker did grant Mahindra India limited contractual rights to manufacture and sell Jeep-branded components and products in India beginning in the 1940s, but nothing gave Mahindra ownership rights over Jeep intellectual properties or designs.
According to Chrysler, the Mahindra ROXOR will do nothing but harm Jeep's reputation and diminish the value of FCA's investments into its Jeep-brand products.