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International Trade Commission in the US Rules in Favour of Jeep in case against Mahindra and Mahindra

By Tanurag Ghosh      16 June, 2020 11:30 AM      0 Comments
International Trade Commission US Rules in Favour of Jeep

The United States’ regulator ruled that Mahindra and Mahindra infringed upon the intellectual property of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Jeep brand, barring the sale of the vehicle in question. The decision was released on Thursday (June 11th, 2020) by the International Trade Commission.

The United States International Trade Commission is an independent, bipartisan, quasi-judicial, federal agency of the US government that provides trade expertise to both the legislature and executive. It has broad investigative responsibilities on matters of trade. 

The vehicle in dispute, Mahindra’s ‘Roxor’ according to the commission, violated the “trade dress” of Jeep Wrangler SUV. It issued a limited exclusion order prohibiting sale or import of the infringing vehicle and parts, as well as a cease and desist order to Mahindra’s North American unit. 

‘Trade Dress’ consists of characteristics and features that make a product stand apart and is generally accepted and associated with that product by the public. In the vehicles involved in the matter, the trade dress consisted of Jeep Wrangler’s boxy shape, front grille and round headlights as distinct to the brand. 

The order passed by the commission is valid immediately, but for potential disapproval by the US Trade representative, 60 days have been allotted. The investigation was started in the later part of 2018. It started with the review of an administrative judge’s determination from November 2017. The outbreak of COVID-19 resulted in a delay in arriving on a decision.

Following the decision by the commission, Mahindra and Mahindra clarified the next day that the vehicle subject to action was no longer in production, and the new design for 2020 was completely refreshed. It further issued in a statement that-

"The company and Mahindra Automotive North America remain resolute in its position that the Roxor does not dilute or violate Jeep's trade dress," 

Mahindra also said that it was weighing options for an appeal during the review period or in federal appeals court.

Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, in their statement, stated that they were pleased with the decision of the International Trade Commission and reserved further comment while it studied the ruling. 

This decision comes at a time where Mahindra Automotive North America has suffered losses due to the crash in the economy as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. As opposed to the Italian American carmaker Fiat-Chrysler automobiles, Mahindra is a foreign brand with lesser acceptance in American markets. Such a decision only makes it harder for a company to operate its business within the territory of the United States of America, one of the largest automobile markets in the world. 

Protection of intellectual property, however, remains one of the major areas of increased activity and policy-making due to the increase in ‘copy’ or plagiarism of various kinds of intellectual property. Protecting the interests of the inventor/creator has become a significant objective for the governments. It requires support towards realizing this objective from the courts and various tribunals deciding issues of infringement of IPR laws. 

 



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