Jeep suffered a significant legal setback recently when a court in Michigan ruled in favor of Indian car manufacturer Mahindra, which makes an off-road vehicle that Jeep alleged to be a near-replica of its iconic Wrangler.
Bloomberg reported that the Eastern District Court of Michigan ruled last week that Mahindra could continue the production, sale, and distribution of the post-2020 version of the Roxor, the vehicle under contention.
Jeep’s legal team had previously argued that the Mahindra Roxor was a “nearly identical copy” of the Jeep, citing similar design elements such as the “boxy body shape with flat-appearing vertical sides and rear body ending at about the same height as the hood.” Truth be told, the new version does still look a lot like Wrangler, though it’s more distinct than previous Roxor models.
The legal battle between Jeep and Mahindra has been ongoing since Mahindra started selling its version of the off-road vehicle in the US in 2018. The original version of the Roxor looked VERY much like an older model CJ Wrangler.
Interestingly, the International Trade Commission had stated in June 2020 that although the Roxor did not infringe Jeep’s trademarks, it did infringe the trade dress — a product’s look that distinguishes its source to consumers — and recommended prohibiting the import and sale of Roxor parts.
In defense, Mahindra argued that the 2018 and 2019 versions of the Roxor, which were under legal scrutiny, were no longer in production, and the 2020 version had a fresh look with more design changes planned.
This verdict comes two years after a victory for Jeep in Australia, where it successfully won a court case against Mahindra in May 2021. Following the judgment, Mahindra agreed not to import a copycat version of Jeep’s iconic off-road vehicle in Australia. However, the company has not dismissed the possibility of introducing an updated version of the Jeep Wrangler look-a-like in Australia after significant design changes.
In the past, Jeep had successfully halted Mahindra’s plans to import its budget off-road SUVs, leading to considerable design changes to the Mahindra Thar, which strongly resembled the Jeep Wrangler.
The redesigned Thar and Roxor vehicles still bear resemblance to the Jeep models but incorporate unique design features to differentiate them from the American counterparts — and apparently in the case of the recent court case, it’s enough for them to sell them.