Mahindra Wins Wrangler Trademark Case in Court

Mahindra Wins Wrangler Trademark Case in Court

In 2018, Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra introduced the Roxor off-roader to the U.S. market, intending to offer it as a non-street-legal alternative to side-by-sides and utility work vehicles. However, its design, reminiscent of the original Willys Jeep, led to legal disputes with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). Now, the Eastern District Court of Michigan has ruled in favor of Mahindra Automotive North America, allowing the company to continue selling 2020-and-newer versions of the Roxor, according to Automotive News.

FCA, which later merged with PSA Group to form Stellantis in 2021, filed a formal complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in 2018, claiming that the Roxor was a near-replica of the iconic Jeep design. FCA alleged that the Roxor’s boxy body shape with flat-appearing vertical sides and rear body resembled the Jeep too closely and could potentially harm their business and reputation in the U.S. market.

In response, Mahindra contested FCA’s complaint in a Michigan court, asserting that the two companies had reached an agreement in 2009, permitting Mahindra to sell the Roxor with a grille design approved by Fiat that sufficiently differed from the classic seven-slot Jeep grille. Mahindra also argued that the Roxor was intended solely for off-road use and did not compete with the Jeep Wrangler.

The International Trade Commission ruled in June 2020 that the Roxor did not violate any Fiat Chrysler trademarks, but it did infringe on the Jeep’s trade dress, referring to the product’s distinctive appearance that identifies its source for consumers. The commission recommended ceasing the import and sale of Roxor parts.

Mahindra responded by stating that the 2018 and 2019 models, which had a more Jeep-like face, were no longer in production, and the 2020 Roxor featured a new oval grille design that sufficiently differentiated it from the Jeep. The ITC eventually agreed with Mahindra’s argument, concluding that the 2020 Roxor did not infringe on the Jeep’s trade dress.

FCA then requested the court to implement the “safe distance rule,” which would require Mahindra to register a new, non-infringing trademark that significantly differed from the infringed trademark, to make it clear to consumers that the two products were unrelated. However, the Michigan court’s ruling on July 19th denied FCA/Stellantis’ request, allowing Mahindra to continue manufacturing and selling the Roxor models produced after 2020.

The Roxor comes equipped with a diesel 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, producing 62 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque, paired with a five-speed manual transmission. Its compact size, measuring 148 inches in length, makes it nearly 20 inches shorter than a new two-door Wrangler. The top speed is limited to 55 mph, and the Roxor boasts a 3490-pound towing capacity. Prices for the Roxor start at $20,599 before the destination fee.

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