Jaguar Land Rover Files Trademark Applications to Protect Appearance of Vehicles

By Joseph Mandour on September 27, 2017

Los Angeles – Jaguar Land Rover filed five trademark applications between April and September 2016 in hopes to protect the shape of its vehicles. The design most recently called in to question is the Land Rover Defender after Jim Ratcliffe, billionaire owner of Ineos, is looking to release a similar vehicle.

Ineos is a company chiefly focused on chemicals, so it seems questionable that they are attempting to wedge their way into the extremely competitive automotive industry. This is especially true considering that product design and development costs can exceed a billion dollars for a single vehicle.

Jaguar and Land Rover became a single company in 2002 during an acquisition by Ford. The entity has since been acquired by Tata Motors which is based in India. Jaguar Land Rover stopped production of the Defender in January 2016 because it did not meet safety or environmental standards. This may be partly due to its distinctively vertical stature compared to other SUV’s which may contribute to roll-overs. However, Jaguar Land Rover had plans to release the replacement Defender in the year 2020.

A year after Jaguar Land Rover’s Defender replacement announcement, Ratcliffe vowed to create a “spiritual successor” of the iconic Defender. As a matter of fact, Ratcliffe approached Jaguar Land Rover cordially asking to buy intellectual property from Jaguar Land Rover, if possible, to help with the project. It is unclear whether Jaguar Land Rover filed its trademark applications before or after Ratcliffe’s approach.

European trademark law has a history of being reluctant to protect the shape and design of entire vehicles or parts of the vehicle unless the shape is genuinely distinctive. Generally consumers must truly identify the shape of the vehicle with a brand, and must be likely to be confused as to source when seeing a similar vehicle shape or design.

Jaguar Land Rover claims that the Defender will always be instantly recognizable as a Land Rover all over the world and that the Defender remains relevant in its current and future product strategies. However, looking at the Land Rover Defender there are already existing automotive companies that have a model of SUV that look rather similar such as Jeep and Mercedes-Benz.

The newly fashioned Ineos Automotive team will have 200 engineers, working mainly in Germany with a design team based out of the UK. Ratcliffe insisted the new business would be profitable within three years of production. His goal is to sell 25,000 vehicles a year for about $47,000 each.

Jaguar Land Rover stated that they will closely monitor any actions in relation to the shape and design of its Defender and will comment when appropriate.

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