The Mahindra Roxor is coming back! Mahindra has now satisfied regulators by redesigning the Roxor, an off-road side-by-side whose styling was a little — no, a lot — too familiar for the legal department of Fiat Chrysler.
In 2018, FCA filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission, arguing that the Roxor’s Jeep-inspired styling features infringed on Jeep’s intellectual property. In June, the ITC ruled in Jeep’s favor, prohibiting the sale of Roxors and parts.
Last week, the ITC ruled that the post-2020 Roxor model does not violate what is called the “trade dress” of Jeep, so Mahindra can now manufacture and distribute the 2021 Roxor. While the end of the ban is great news for Mahindra, FCA isn’t happy. From Reuters:
While FCA is disappointed with the commission’s decision regarding the redesign, we believe we will be successful in appealing this decision.
Why was Jeep upset in the first place? I’ll let our David Tracy explain:
The complaint, filed Wednesday (and shown in full at the bottom of this article), claims that Mahindra has “engaged in unlawful acts...through their unlicensed importation, sale for importation, or sale after importation of... products that infringe and dilute FCA’s distinctive Jeep vehicle trade dress.”
FCA defines that trade dress as the following design features:
(i) A boxy body shape with flat appearing vertical side and rear body panels ending at about the same height as the hood;
(ii) Substantially flat hood with curved side edges that tapers to be narrower at the front;
(iii) Trapezoidal front wheel wells with front fenders or fender flares that extend beyond the front of the grille;
(iv) Flat appearing grille with vertical elongated grille slots and a trapezoidal outline that curves around round headlamps positioned on the upper part of the grille;
(v) Exterior hood latches;
(vi) Door cutouts above a bottom portion of the side body panels
The original Roxor design that Jeep didn’t like looked like this:
Jeep’s and Mahindra’s products exist in two completely different markets. Why would Jeep care that Mahindra wants to build a side-by-side that looks like a Jeep that not even Jeep makes anymore? Who out there is cross-shopping a Roxor with a Wrangler? While I think these are good questions, this legal battle isn’t about the Roxor snagging Wrangler sales.
This essentially boils down to how intellectual property is handled in this country. In short, if you don’t defend your intellectual property, you risk your work becoming generic and losing out on some rights. IP owners are essentially obligated to police their works.
Mahindra gave the 2020 Roxor a new grille — one that looked something like an old Toyota J40 Land Cruiser — but it did not win approval. That’s a shame, as I thought the second version of the Roxor looked even cooler than the first.
The 2021 Roxor design that’s now approved for sale alters the trade dress items that Jeep’s complaint cited . This comes from Mahindra’s petition to the ITC detailing the Roxor’s post-2020 design. The design is certainly striking, to say the least.
Check out David Tracy’s deep dive on the Roxor’s new design.
Mahindra had this to say to us regarding the design of the 2021 Roxor:
The 2021 redesign was led by our design team here in the U.S. ROXOR was an immediate hit with people who use if [sic] for recreational use….and over the past couple of years its gained a ton of interest from farmers and commercial users who are tired of needing to constantly fix and replace the light duty, plastic-bodied, side by sides they’ve been using. While the redesign addresses several areas of trade dress it was done as much or more to appeal to people who like ROXOR for its ruggedness and durability. That’s the main theme our design team worked with to come up with the new styling.
It also answers the question of Roxor’s market aim. I love the Roxor for being something a bit different with an already growing aftermarket. It’s not just for off-roaders, but farmers, too. You can even get air-conditioning and heat in one of these.
As for those ITC images? They’re the real deal. Mahindra tells me it will have more photos in a release weeks from now.
I’m happy that Mahindra won this round. I absolutely understand Jeep’s fight here, as it’s something it pretty much has to do. But I think Mahindra sufficiently changed the design for the 2021 model. It’ll be interesting to see how FCA’s appeal is handled.
I hope to see some of these in the wild. They look properly fun!