US-based admin law judge determines Roxor's redesigned version doesn't violate trade rights: Mahindra & Mahindra

Mahindra & Mahindra on Thursday said the administrative law judge of a US regulator has "determined" that the redesigned 2021 version of its off-road utility vehicle Roxor does not violate the intellectual property rights of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' (FCA) Jeep brand.

Homegrown auto major M&M and FCA have been locked in a legal battle in the US over the design of Roxor, with the latter claiming that it is a copy of Willys Jeep and the design elements of the Indian company's product infringe some key design elements of Jeep. Roxor was launched on March 2, 2018, to be sold in the US and Canada.

Earlier this year in June, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) upheld the Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) determination, which held that Roxor violated FCA's trade dress.

In a regulatory filing, M&M on October 23 said, "The ITC Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) has completed his review of the redesigned 2021 Roxor and in his opinion, has determined that it does not violate the so-called 'Jeep trade dress'." It further said, "The ALJ is recommending that the ITC confirm these findings and modify the orders previously issued in this dispute to reflect they do not cover the 2021 Roxor design." The ITC had earlier recommended an exclusion of the order prohibiting the importation of Roxor parts and a cease-and-desist order prohibiting the sale of any already imported Roxor parts.

Trade dress is a form of intellectual property that identifies the look of a product and distinguishes it from its competitors.

M&M, however, stated that the Roxor does not violate Jeep's trade dress. Its US-based subsidiary Mahindra Automotive North America (MANA) is considering options with respect to a further review and appeal of the ITC determination both during the Presidential review phase of the ITC decision and at the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, it added.

In November 2019, a judge of the US ITC had found that Roxor violated FCA's 'Jeep trade dress' and recommended an exclusion order prohibiting import and sale of any already imported parts of the vehicle.

FCA had filed before the Eastern District Court of Michigan, seeking a permanent injunction on manufacture or sales of the Roxor, as well as disgorgement of any profits made by M&M from sales of the vehicle.

M&M had stated that the vehicle that was subject of the action was produced in 2018 and 2019 and is no longer in production. The Roxor design was refreshed for the 2020 model year and further design changes were in the works as part of the normal design cycle.

MANA remains committed to the Roxor brand, its employees and its dealers, M&M said.

After M&M launched the Roxor on March 2, 2018, to be sold in the US and Canada, FCA lodged a complaint with the US ITC alleging that it was a copy of Willys Jeep and the design elements of Mahindra's product infringes some key design elements of Jeep.

Roxor is manufactured in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Mahindra has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into building its US operations and currently operates multiple facilities in the Detroit area.

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