I’d like to remind you that there is currently a great battle waging— a battle between Mahindra, who is selling their very Jeep-like Roxor off-road-only vehicle, and Jeep, who sells, you know, Jeeps. Fiat-Chrysler (FCA) alleges that the very Jeep-like Roxor is too very Jeep-like to be sold here in America. While on the face of it, this seems to make sense, when you dig a bit deeper things just aren’t as clear. Mahindra sent us a statement that explains their side of things a bit more.
It’s also worth mentioning that, really, Mahindra has had a license to build Jeeps for a hell of a lot longer than FCA has—Mahindra has been licensed to build Jeeps since the Willys era, way back in 1947.
Mahindra didn’t steal the Jeep design—they’ve been building them for over 70 years.
Here’s the statement Mahindra sent us to explain their side. It’s surprisingly interesting, since this is an unusual case: Mahindra isn’t just some company that decided to start building knockoff Jeeps—they have a heritage and history almost as old as Jeep itself.
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.
While I certainly understand FCA’s desire and need to protect their intellectual property, I think I’m more on Mahindra’s side here, both because of the history, the fact that they did take pains to differentiate the Roxor’s “face” and I really just can’t imagine anyone confusing the purchase of an off-road-only Roxor you can only get at a Mahindra dealer with an actual Jeep-branded modern Jeep.
I also don’t really understand why none of this was sorted out between the two companies before the Roxor was introduced here, but I’m not some bigshot automaker lawyer, after all.
If someone is genuinely confused about that purchase, maybe they don’t need to be driving at all?