Feds Wade Into Fiat Chrysler-Mahindra Spat, Promise to Get to Bottom of Roxor Affair

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

A decade-old document signed by Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra and Chrysler Group LLC will be at the center of an investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Announced Tuesday and reported by Reuters, the feds will look into the patent dispute that erupted when Mahindra began importing the very Jeep-like Roxor all-terrain vehicle into the United States. FCA claimed the Roxor looks too much like the classic Jeep CJ line, predecessor to the Wrangler, and filed an intellectual property complaint to the ITC. Nuh uh — we had a deal, Mahindra responded.

FCA wants Mahindra’s U.S. arm to cease the importation and sale of Roxors or Roxor parts, but the India-based company is now seeking an injunction against FCA. It’s a pretty bitter dispute, perhaps even more so than those seen between Western automakers and makers of carbon-copy Chinese knock-offs. The Roxor does look an awful lot like the classic Jeep, adopting numerous styling cues long associated with the go-anywhere brand.

But the 2009 agreement forged between Mahindra and Chrysler — with current FCA CEO (then Jeep division boss) Mike Manley holding the U.S. pen — focuses not on the body, but on the grille. Mahindra found itself in hot water at the time after designing an SUV with a seven-slot grille, a feature at the heart of Jeep’s identity. The two sides reached an agreement: If Mahindra agreed to redesign the grille in a manner that met Chrysler’s approval, the American automaker would refrain from any claim of design or trademark infringement against the other automaker’s vehicles, so long as said grille was in place. (You can see the before-and-after grille designs in court documents published by Jalopnik.)

While the Roxor’s grille sticks to the general design seen the 2009 document, the body — “trade dress” in automaker legalease — goes straight for Jeep’s heart. FCA mentions it extensively in its ITC complaint; more so than the grille, in fact.

Whatever the ITC decides, we’ll know about it soon enough. Reuters claims the feds aim to complete the investigation into Mahindra’s Roxor within 45 days.

[Image: Mahindra & Mahindra]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Lne937s Lne937s on Sep 12, 2018

    Looks more like a Ford M151 than a current Jeep. Is Ford going to go after them next? Or AM General? I think the rights to the "Jeep-like" shape are so diluted that it would be a hard case to make. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M151_%C2%BC-ton_4%C3%974_utility_truck

  • Vulpine Vulpine on Sep 12, 2018

    The problem is, they're both right... and both wrong. Mahindra was given an unlimited license to build vehicles based on the original CJ-3 series of Jeeps by Jeep's then-owners in the early- to mid-50s. While FCA now owns the Jeep brand, the license was never revoked by any previous Jeep brand owners. This could result in a very interesting fight.