Sun, Jun 05, 2016 - Page 13 News List

Jaguar Land Rover to sue Jiangling over SUV copy

Reuters, BEIJING

Land Rover’s WD Range Rover Evoque, left, is unveiled at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, California on Nov. 17, 2010. A Landwind X7, right, is pictured parked outside a dealership in Shanghai, China, on Friday.

Photo: Reuters

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is suing Chinese automaker Jiangling Motor Co (江鈴汽車) for allegedly copying the British firm’s Range Rover Evoque, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said — a rare move by a foreign automaker to fight copycats in the world’s largest autos market.

A spokesman for JLR, owned by India’s Tata Motors Ltd, said in brief e-mailed comments to reporters that a court in Beijing’s eastern Chaoyang District “served Jiangling with newly filed actions surrounding copyright and unfair competition.”

He declined to elaborate.

The suit relates to Jiangling’s Landwind X7 sport utility vehicle (SUV) copying the design of the Evoque, JLR’s first China-made model that went on sale last year, said the person with knowledge of the legal proceedings.

A spokesman for Landwind declined to comment.

Despite widespread and often blatant copying, global automakers generally do not take legal action in China, as they feel the odds of winning against local firms are low. Also, a lawsuit can be bad for branding if the Chinese public think a foreign company is bullying domestic competitors.

If JLR wins its case, it could prompt other automakers to also take legal action, said Chen Jihong (陳際紅), a Beijing-based lawyer at Zhong Lun Law Firm (中倫律師事務所), speeding up a shift to stronger enforcement of intellectual property rights.

Landwind unveiled a new version of its X7 SUV in November 2014, drawing criticism for its striking likeness to the Evoque, an imported version of which was already on sale in China.

The two SUVs have a similar shape, with the roof and windows tapering from front to back, and near identical tail lights and character lines on the side paneling. The X7’s front grille is slightly more rounded than the hard edges of the Evoque.

The slight differences between the two cars can be virtually eliminated using widely available kits that allow a Range Rover grille, logo and Land Rover badges to be put on an X7. Kits on Alibaba’s Taobao shopping Web site cost about 128 yuan (US$19.49).

The X7 costs about a third of the price of an Evoque, and is some way behind in technology and performance, Automotive Foresight managing director Yale Zhang (張豫) said.

JLR and Jiangling have agreed that Landwind will not sell the X7 in Brazil, the source said, where it recently appointed an importer. The two automakers are also discussing what Landwind can and can not do in any X7 design update, the person said.

JLR sales fell by a fifth in China in January to March last year — when it launched its China-made Evoque — after rising 36 percent in the same period the previous year. In the same period this year, JLR’s China sales rose 19 percent.

It took Honda Motor Co 12 years to win a case in China against a little-known local automaker — for copying its best-selling CR-V SUV — according to Xinhua news agency reports.

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