Mahindra is currently locked in a battle with Jeep, trying to make sure it can continue to build and sell its ROXOR off-road vehicle in the US.
A new statement is out from the company regarding an initial ruling by an Administrative Law Judge in its battle with FCA.
Jeep is trying to block Mahindra from selling the ROXOR claiming that it violates “Jeep Trade Dress,” as the ROXOR bears a close resemblance to the old Jeep CJ.
This case is a little murky as it’s not as if Mahindra just stole the design schematic for an old Jeep and starting knocking them off. The company first starting building the Willys Jeep under contract just after WWII and has been doing so ever since. In actual fact, Mahindra has been building Jeeps longer than FCA has.
The company was also clearly not happy with the reporting on the story, so they wanted to set the record straight. Here’s the full statement that was originally sent to Jalopnik:
We are aware of recent media reports about an initial ruling made a few weeks ago by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in our International Trade Commission (ITC) matter with FCA. The articles boil a 91-page opinion down to a few sentences, include misleading characterizations about the litigation to-date and fail to include several important and relevant facts about Mahindra and ROXOR.
For example, the reporting fails to point out that the ALJ concluded Mahindra’s ROXOR does not infringe on any of FCA’s registered trademarks and does not dilute FCA’s claimed Jeep Trade Dress. While the initial ruling concludes that the ROXOR violates “Jeep Trade Dress,” until this case, FCA had never defined what it believes to be the “Jeep Trade Dress” or identified it as a business asset in any filings (bankruptcy or otherwise). Instead, at trial, FCA admitted that it believes it can define and redefine its “Jeep Trade Dress” depending on the product it is challenging – an unreasonable, anti-competitive, anti- business stance that, if successful, could cost good-paying American jobs.
It should also be noted that while the articles reference the Jeep CJ, no mention is made of the fact that FCA has not offered the CJ in the United States market for over thirty-five years. They also don’t mention that ROXOR is an off-road only vehicle or that it sells for under $16,000. Nor do the articles discuss the fact that no ROXOR owners bought the vehicle thinking it was an FCA/Jeep product.
The ROXOR was engineered and developed in the U.S. and is based on the same platform as Mahindra’s Thar vehicle that is sold in India and many other markets. Mahindra has been manufacturing the Thar and its predecessors since just after World War II. The ROXOR’s resemblance to the CJ and military-style Willys jeep is directly related to this 70-year heritage.
The ROXOR is manufactured in Auburn Hills, Michigan at the first assembly plant to be built in Southeast Michigan in over a quarter of a century. Mahindra has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into building its U.S. operations and currently operates multiple facilities in the Detroit area. It employs more than 400 U.S. employees and hundreds more through its network of over 400 dealers and U.S. suppliers.
Ultimately, the ALJ’s opinion is only a recommendation, and we have asked the entire ITC to review it.
The ITC has the discretion to either adopt the ALJ’s opinion in whole or in part, rewrite parts of it, or completely reject it. Therefore, it is very important to wait for the ITC review to be finalized. While there are reports of a cease and desist order with respect to the ROXOR, no such order has been entered. Finally, it was Mahindra, not FCA, who commenced the legal action in the Federal District Court in Michigan. We did this in an attempt to enjoin the ITC action and assert injury claims to our business and reputation as a result of unfair and anticompetitive actions by FCA.
We look forward to the next stage of the ITC’s review process and will continue to stand by the truth, genuineness and authenticity of our business.
Now we must wait for the next step to find out exactly what will happen in this case.