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U.S. regulator sides with Fiat Chrysler over Jeep trade case against Mahindra

A U.S. regulator ruled that Indian automaker Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd infringed upon the intellectual property rights of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Jeep brand, stopping the sale of the vehicles in question.

The International Trade Commission, in a decision issued Thursday, said Mahindra’s Roxor off-road utility vehicle breached the “trade dress” of FCA’s Jeep Wrangler SUV. The ITC issued a limited exclusion order banning sale or import of the infringing vehicles and parts, as well as a cease and desist order to Mahindra and its North American unit.

Trade dress involves the unique characteristics that make a product stand apart and is normally accepted as identified with that product by the public. For example, FCA sees the Jeep Wrangler’s boxy body shape, front grille, and round headlights as unique to the brand.

The order is effective immediately, but the U.S. Trade Representative has 60 days to possibly disapprove for policy reasons.

The ITC, which initially launched its investigation in September 2018, had been evaluating an administrative law judge’s initial determination from last November. The coronavirus crisis delayed the ITC’s decision.

Mahindra, which earlier said FCA’s claims were without merit, did not immediately discuss the issue on Friday. The Indian automaker previously said it introduced its model year 2020 Roxor with what it referred to as “significant styling changes” and would make extra changes if required.

FCA said in a statement on Friday it was happy with the decision and that the Italian-American automaker reserved additional comment while it studied the ruling.

The Roxor is assembled in Auburn Hills, Detroit, by Mahindra’s North American subsidiary.

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