By on January 23, 2020

Image: Mahindra & Mahindra

On Wednesday, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) said it will review an administrative law judge’s initial determination, made in November, that Mahindra’s Roxor looks suspiciously like a Jeep product.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles filed a trade complaint with the ITC in 2018, claiming the Roxor infringes on Jeep’s “trade dress” — a term used to identify trademarked images or general appearance of a product. Not quite a patent, it exists on the fringes of intellectual property laws, frequently making trade dress issues difficult to navigate.

The judge’s recommendation was that regulators issue a cease-and-desist order and prohibit any Mahindra vehicles or parts that infringe from entering the country. Meanwhile, the commission is still in the midst of its own investigation — which opened in September of 2018 — and now estimates finishing its inquiry by March 20th.

From there, the U.S. Trade Representative would have two months to make a final determination. Of course, now that Mahindra has updated the look of the 2020 Roxor (below the break), the whole issue could be moot. 

Despite initially calling FCA’s accusations groundless, India’s Mahindra recently told Reuters it was open to the idea of tinkering with the Roxor (even though it just did for the U.S. market) and welcomed the commission’s input.

“We are optimistic that the ITC will in its review conclude that FCA did not establish previously unclaimed U.S. rights in trade dress and that there was no infringement of either trade dress or registered trademarks,” the company said in a statement.

Conversely, Fiat Chrysler feels confident the ITC already has its back and will decide to uphold the judge’s ruling. “Review is a part of the commission process,” FCA said on Thursday. “Based on the facts and law, FCA US remains confident the administrative law judge’s initial determination of violation by Mahindra will be adopted by the commission.”

We can’t really pretend the pre-2020 Roxor doesn’t look like a Jeep CJ, but the two automakers have managed to come to agreements in the past. Back in 2009, when Mahindra wanted to export the Scorpio, FCA said the face looked too much like the Jeep Grand Cherokee. A legal battle ensued. The duo ultimately agreed the model would be sold in North America using a different grille — even though it never came here.

However, the Roxor is already being manufactured in Auburn Hills, Michigan as a fairly cheap way to engage in off-road antics — and only off-road antics, because it isn’t street legal. The 2020 model-year grille (announced this week) does quite a lot to revamp the vehicle’s overall style. While ditching the five vertical slats for something reminiscent of 40-series Land Cruisers, it’s probably distinct enough to avoid Toyota’s wrath.

There also appears to be some new wheel options, though the rest of the Roxor remains as is. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbo diesel hasn’t gone anywhere, nor has there been any change to its output (62 horsepower and 144 lb-ft of torque). A five-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a six-speed automatic transmission optional.

Mahindra initially saw the vehicle as more of an off-road toy; it’s now trying to prove its value to farms and ranches in need of an affordable and rugged work vehicle. As such, it’s endeavoring to up the number of accessories and keep prices low (something assisted by Roxor not needing to adhere to the same safety standards as a road-going car). It lists the 2020 model year Roxor at $16,599 ($19,900 Canadian) after destination.

[Images: Mahindra]

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