Copyright and unfair competition claimed in suit filed in China, report says
Jaguar Land Rover has filed suit against Chinese automaker Jiangling Motors for allegedly copying the design of the Range Rover Evoque, Reuters reports. Jiangling unveiled the Landwind X7 SUV in late 2014; it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Evoque, at least on the outside.
Land Rover, owned by India’s Tata industrial conglomerate, filed the action in Beijing’s eastern Chaoyang district, citing copyright and unfair competition causes of action. The Chinese-made SUV went on sale last year in China, where the real Evoque is also offered.
The British automaker expressed dismay last year when the Landwind X7 made its debut as a concept, with executives promising to examine legal options even as industry observers and legal analysts noted their options were limited.
“I really regret that all of a sudden, copy-and-paste is coming up again,” Land Rover chief executive officer Ralf Speth told Automotive News Europe last spring, when legal action was seen as fruitless. “There are no laws. There’s nothing to protect us, so we have to take it as it is.”
Jaguar Land Rover faces an uphill battle in the suit: Intellectual property litigation in China is still seen as an ineffectual undertaking for large western companies, with the costs of defeat including not only legal fees, but also the message sent to potential violators that they have nothing to fear from the Chinese legal system. In those cases where plaintiffs have prevailed against design appropriators, the fruits of the victory often turned sour long ago: Years of litigation is expensive, and by the time an injunction is achieved, product lines and fashion have already moved on. Unlike small personal appliances, cars have longer product cycles, but by the time JLR prevails (if it prevails), the Evoque and its Chinese twin may already have gone through a redesign.
Even though “borrowing” of industrial designs has seen a significant decrease since the early 2000s, smaller Chinese automakers have sporadically debuted cars that copy individual design elements. There has been little incentive for western automakers whose smaller design elements show up on Chinese manufacturers’ vehicles to pursue legal action.