By on June 12, 2020

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ battle to keep an Indian all-terrain vehicle — one that looks suspiciously like a certain flag-waving American off-road vehicle — out of the U.S. has come to an end. FCA won.

As reported by Bloomberg, the U.S. International Trade Commission has ruled that Mahindra’s Roxor, which strongly resembles a Jeep CJ, is in violation of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 and infringes on the complainant’s trade dress. In short, the Mahindra Roxor looks too much like a Jeep.

The investigation launched back in 2018. The Roxor, assembled via knock-down kit in Auburn Hills, Michigan — ironically, FCA’s home base — cannot legally be driven on U.S. roads, though it does take the ATV experience in a conventional driving direction. It’s not cheap, and it’s not underpowered.

Slab-sided, with blocky fenders and a roll cage, the Roxor undeniably looks like a vintage, military-issue Jeep. You almost expect Hawkeye Pierce to hop out of one, wagging his finger at Truman.

Image: Mahindra & Mahindra

Last year, a federal judge ruled that the Roxor comes too close to Jeep’s Wrangler, stating that Mahindra & Mahindra should stop production. Mahindra appealed, claiming that the Roxor did not infringe on any of FCA’s registered trademarks. In stepped the ITC for a final say on the matter.

“Trade dress” can be a hazy thing, falling outside the boundaries of strict patents and trademarks. In a bid to maintain the model’s presence in the U.S., Mahindra altered the Roxor’s grille for 2020 (top photo), removing any Jeep-like attributes from that part of the vehicle. It now vaguely resembles a vintage Toyota SUV.

Not good enough. The ITC has now issued a cease and desist order to Mahindra and its American business arm.

In its ruling, the commission said it “issued a limited exclusion order (‘LEO’) prohibiting the importation by respondents Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. (‘M&M’) of Mumbai, India and Mahindra Automotive North America, Inc. (‘MANA’) of Auburn Hills, Michigan (collectively, ‘Respondents’) of certain motorized vehicles and components thereof that infringe complainant’s asserted trade dress.”

In January, Mahindra stated that it would “make additional styling changes, if so required, in cooperation with the ITC.”

It also complained that FCA was trying to create “a practical monopoly over the import and sale of components used in any boxy, open-topped, military-style vehicle.”

[Images: Mahindra & Mahindra]

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39 Comments on “Fiat Chrysler Gets Its Wish; Jeep Lookalike Blocked From U.S....”


  • avatar
    rpol35

    Good!

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Bad! Mahindra was given a lifetime license to build on the original Jeep plans over 60 years ago by Willys.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        If I recall, that license had some very specific language around what was approved and what wasn’t. A judge decided Mahindra violated that language.

        FCA isn’t the bad guy here.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Can you show us that language? As far as I know the judge may not have even SEEN those licenses.

          • 0 avatar
            karonetwentyc

            This is pure speculation on my behalf, so take it for what it’s worth.

            My guess is that FCA pursued the trade dress argument, bolstering it by claiming that Mahindra’s license only covered vehicles assembled outside of the US. My understanding was that Mahindra USA was bringing in CKD kits from India and assembling them here, then adding some locally-sourced parts to the vehicles.

            This was largely being done to sidestep import duties on fully-assembled vehicles. Frankly, I’m OK with that in this case, because it provided downstream employment. But FCA could have argued that because the vehicles were being assembled in the US, that violated the original licensing agreement.

            Again, complete speculation on my my behalf. But it doesn’t seem to be outside the bounds of possibility – or plausibility, given that lawyers are involved.

          • 0 avatar
            brn

            Vulpine I wish I could show you the language. Google isn’t helping. If it’s not the latest headlines, Google tends to be useless for stuff like this.

            There are references to (nothing concrete) there being a license agreement between FCA and Mahindra that defines how close they can come to the Jeep design and where they can sell it.

            Again, I’m disappointed that I can find no references either way. However, it suggests the story isn’t as simple as many want to make it. At least two rulings went against Mahindra, so it can’t be complete BS.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I just wish these Mahindras were street legal. I think they’re great, but do understand why FCA might not think so

  • avatar
    karonetwentyc

    This is a complete crock.

    Mahindra has been building Jeeps under licence since 1948. These vehicles are more Jeep than, frankly, anything else Jeep manufactures today – and it’s difficult to see how anyone would confuse the much smaller Roxor with its two seats, no doors, no roof, and lack of ability to be driven off the lot and onto the street with a JK or JL.

    Anyone looking at one of these as a farm vehicle or dedicated trail toy isn’t likely to be cross-shopping with 2-door JLs or CPO JKs. They’re looking at what’s in the used CJ / YJ / TJ market, or at traditional side-by-sides.

    FCA has become increasingly cynical about milking Jeep as a cash cow under its ownership. This is just another extension of their ‘you’ll buy whatever we make’ arrogance.

    • 0 avatar
      ScarecrowRepair

      That’s what I came here to wonder about. I thought they had had a license from the original Willys, to build Willys knockoffs in the US, all above board and legal. What happened to that?

      • 0 avatar
        993cc

        I believe the license was only to build their jeep in India.

        • 0 avatar
          karonetwentyc

          The licence (as I understand it, so may be wrong) to build was to Mahindra as a company and did not prevent export of their vehicles into other markets.

          Mahindra already sells their Jeep variants outside of India, and has for decades. At one point, they were even offered in EU markets; I can remember seeing a couple running around in the UK.

          This is purely FCA at some of its litigious worst.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    So can they apply add-on Cadillac-style tail fins and a Hudson Hornet-like grille and be back in business?

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      Just put some square headlights on it. Real Jeeps have round headlights.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Hudson merged with Nash to form AMC, purchased by Chrysler, now part of FCA, which owns the Hudson triangle. Back to square one there. As for Cadillac-style fins, GM didn’t squawk when Chrysler went fin-crazy in 1957, but where would you put the fins on that Mahindra?

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Too bad .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    redapple

    Funny they got blocked.
    I saw a commercial for these on RFD TV channel last weekend.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I think if it looks like parts will bolt right up (in pictures anyway, size differences and all) to an existing or older Jeep, it probably is a trade dress issue.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      FCA is doing its damndest to revoke Mahindra’s license, despite Mahindra being a far older company than FCA and the license being even older than AMC, from whom Chrysler purchased the Jeep brand in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        karonetwentyc

        Not to mention that Mahindra is economically viable, whereas FCA isn’t.

        My guess is that this is FCA flexing their muscles in an attempt to grab back the rights licensed to Mahindra ahead of the PSA buyout going through. PSA has a decent presence in the BRIC countries, and having the post-acquisition rights to the CJ Jeep would essentially force Mahindra into the position of having to pay PSA to build the Willys derivatives in its home country.

        No matter how thin you slice it, it’s still slimy.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          So they sold the Jimny here in the 80’s, yet jeeps are still here and doing well and the Jimny is no longer offered here. And that was at a time people were more receptive to driving little crapboxes.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Chrysler was formed in 1924 from Maxwell, founded in 1904; Fiat was founded in 1899. Mahindra was formed in 1945. The original Jeep design, from the American Bantam Scout Vehicle, is older than Mahindra!

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          @Lorenzo: BUT… The original Jeep design came from neither Chrysler nor Fiat; it came from Willys (called the Bantam) and during WWII was built by both Willys and Ford (which actually gave it its final appearance.) Ford hasn’t complained once about the Roxor and the ONLY reason FCA is complaining is because they made it look too much like the original MB/CJ2…which were NOT Wranglers. The Wrangler name didn’t join Jeep until the 1984 YJ as a trim package and became a full-time name for the TJ Wrangler in 1997.

          What all this means is that the Mahindra has every right to the original flat-fender design because neither Chrysler nor FCA built that design OR created the original “signature” look.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Mahindra was formed in 1945; Chrysler was formed in 1924 from Maxwell, founded in 1904; Fiat was founded in 1899. The original Jeep design is older than Mahindra!

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    One of the ATV dealerships in my town sell these. I have yet to see one on a trail. They are pricey for what you get. My neighbour has a 70’s era Jeep with 304 V8 for sale for 3k. I’d rather buy that as a kidney destroying trail rig than one of these for 15-18k.

  • avatar
    pveezy

    Shame… that is has more in common with actual Jeep DNA than most of the FWD crossovers and bloated luxury vehicles that Fiat slaps the Jeep badge on today.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Is it a copy of the CJ. Yep.
    Does it harm Wrangler. Nope.

    Grill and headlights. Change them and the Roxor is not confused with Jeep.
    Mahindra did this already. It resembles an FJ45 now.

    Real harm here is consumer choice.

  • avatar
    silverfin

    Too Bad…given that it is an 3rd world Indian design it should be more reliable that any FCA vehicle. If they ever import the Suzuki Jimney the Wrangler is dead man walking.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    The FJ40 never got held from the US cuz it looked like the CJ5 and it resembled the CJ way more than thks resembles the wrangler.

  • avatar
    bd2

    The Suzuki Jimmy has more of the look of a modern Jeep.

  • avatar
    Charliej

    FCA was probably worried that the Mahindra would have better quality and reliability than the real Jeep. And they would probably be right.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Those who can, do.

    Those who can’t, use their privileged connections to block those who can, from doing.

    Story of America’s fall from 1st to 3rd world status…

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Is there any evidence any Mahindra vehicle cn meet US import standards? They seem to be in the business of trying to cheaply sneak in kit knockoffs under the rules.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Any idiot can “do something” if cost is no object. Doing it cheaply, is what takes skill and insight.

        Once the way to compete, is no longer to do things the most efficiently, but instead to lobby to ban others better than you at efficiency from doing what they do, we’re the Soviet Union.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      America’s real fall is it’s insatiable desire to hate itself. A lot of great stuff happens here, but we focus too much on the negatives.

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