Sunday, November 30, 2014

Land Rover Calls Chinese Auto Maker a Knock-Off

We usually highlight knock-offs as it relates to fashion, but this story was too good to not share with you. Once again this particular knockoff involves China, the king producer of manufactured goods and knockoffs.

LandWind, an automotive company based in Guangzhou, China has released an SUV that looks very identical to the Range Rover Evoque.  It is called LandWind X7 and Jaguar Land Rover (Range Rover's parent company) is not happy about it at all.

At first glance, the LandWind's outer appearance is strikingly similar to the Evoque. Not only does it have the same body style, but the position of LandWind's name and emblem is very similar to the Evoque despite the $60,000 price difference. Not only is the Land Wind the same design, it is $20,000 whereas the Evoque starts at $80,000 at Chinese dealerships.


Two key parties from Jaguar Land Rover have spoken out. As reported on AutoCar,  Dr. Ralph Speth, Land Rover's Chief Executive Officer said, "the intellectual property is owned by Jaguar Land Rover and if you break that IP then you are in breach of international regulations that apply around the world."  Also, Ian Callum, Jaguar's chief designer tweeted photos of the LandWind.

But will Land Rover have a meritorious case, if any case at all against LandWind? Let us analyze this automobile knock off through our knowledge of intellectual property infringement.

    • When it comes to U.S. law fashion, A KNOCK OFF IS NOT ENOUGH TO SUE for infringement but A COUNTERFEIT IS . A knock off design merely means one item looks like another one. It is legal under u.s. law because it could mean that one the look and design of one item inspired the design of another item. However a counterfeit design takes it a step further and means, not only does my one item look like another, it is design in a fashion as to deceive the consumer into believing that it is the item that it looks like. You can learn the difference between a knockoff and a counterfeit here at the Preponderance of Fashion Blog. 

    • Analysis: Land Rover correctly called the LandWind a knockoff because the latter only looks like the Evoque. Since LandWind uses the word LandWind and the LandWind emblem to decorate the car, it is not a counterfeit, and therefore is legal in the United States. However, if Chinese IP law makes knockoffs illegal (We seriously doubt it), then LandRover may have a successful chance bringing an infringement suit in Guangzhou. 
    • Caveat: 

    • Nicole D. Galli says, “patent litigation in the auto industry dates back to the first days of cars” and discussed patent attorney George Selden, who sued all the early auto makers, including Henry Ford, for infringing on his patent, which was granted in 1895. You can check out a recent case on auto litigation here

    • As we discussed before in our post on patents there are three types- one for designs, one for utility, and one for plants. We will only discuss the design and utility patents. "A design patent is granted to anyone who invents a new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. A utility patent is granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvements" says the U.S. Patent Office. Think of how it looks (design) vs how it functions (utility).

    • Analysis:  We cannot imagine Land Rover not having a design patent for the Evoque because its design makes it unique in how it looks. And although we are not sure, we cannot imagine Land Rover not having a utility patent for the way the Evoque functions - especially if the design (the way it looks) cannot be separated from it's utility (the way it functions).  Cars are computers designed with many codes that relay to its aerodynamics and safety technology. Think speed, seat belts, airbags, and mechanics under the hood. Therefore Land Rover has a strong case for design patent infringement under U.S. Law; and our bet is they have a strong case for a utility patent as well.
    • Also, The specifications of the Land Wind are very similar to the Evoque. This will definitely help Land Rover's case. 

We will definitely keep you updated on this case.