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Money News

U.S. regulator sides with FCA in Jeep trade case against Mahindra

DETROIT (Reuters) - A U.S. regulator ruled that India’s Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd infringed upon the intellectual property rights of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s (FCA) Jeep brand, barring the sale of the vehicles in question.

FILE PHOTO: ROXOR off-road vehicles are seen in the Mahindra Automotive North America assembly plant in Auburn Hills, Michigan, U.S., January 30, 2019. Photo taken January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

The International Trade Commission, in a decision released late Thursday, said Mahindra’s Roxor off-road utility vehicle violated the “trade dress” of FCA’s Jeep Wrangler SUV. The ITC issued a limited exclusion order prohibiting 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 consists of the unique characteristics that make a product stand apart and is generally 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 distinct to the brand.

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

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

Mahindra said in a statement on Friday that the vehicle subject to the ITC action is no longer in production and the 2020 design was refreshed.

“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 said, adding it was weighing options with respect to an appeal during the review period or in federal appeals court.

FCA said in a statement it was pleased with the decision and that the Italian-American automaker reserved further comment while it studied the ruling.

The Roxor is assembled in Auburn Hills, north of Detroit.

Mahindra on Friday reported a quarterly loss and was pushing to cut costs during the outbreak.

Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Dan Grebler and Daniel Wallis

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