U.S. regulator sides with FCA in Jeep trade case against MahindraU.S. regulator sides with FCA in Jeep trade case against Mahindra
FILE PHOTO: ROXOR off-road vehicles are seen in the Mahindra Automotive North America assembly plant in Auburn Hills Michigan,

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.

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, which previously said FCA’s claims were without merit, did not immediately comment on Friday. The Indian automaker previously said it launched its model year 2020 Roxor with what it described as “significant styling changes” and would make additional changes if required.

FCA said in a statement on Friday 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, by Mahindra’s North American subsidiary.

Mahindra on Friday reported a quarterly loss and said it planned to give up control of its struggling South Korean unit SsangYong Motor as it looks to cut costs during the coronavirus pandemic.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Dan Grebler)