The first Land Rover Defender, which was intended for life on the farm, began its journey in 1949. The Defender model has had many admirers over the years. One of them was Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a Monaco-based British billionaire turned financier and industrialist and current CEO of the newly formed Ineos Automative, part of Ineos Industries Holding Limited (“Ineos”). Sir Jim recently set about creating his own “spiritual successor” to the Defender, which he named “the Grenadier.” Due to launch by early 2022, the Grenadier has the same rugged off-roader DNA as the Defender. Unsurprisingly perhaps, Ineos has been recently sued by Jaguar Land Rover (“JLR”) for trademark infringement.
JLR has been in for a long haul to protect its trademark rights for the shape of its iconic Defender SUV in the courts for the last four years — it first lost a court battle pitted against the Ineos owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe in 2019. Interestingly, however, in a recent trademark dispute between the two automotive companies — Jaguar Land Rover v. Ineos Industries, the High Court of Justice of England and Wales held that the three-dimensional shapes of the Land Rover Defender model are not eligible for trademark registration as they lack inherent or acquired distinctiveness.
Background Jaguar Land Rover filed four trademark applications with the UK Intellectual
Property Office for the following shapes of the Land Rover Defender cars as three-dimensional marks.
These applications were filed for a range of goods and services pertaining to Class 9 (computer hardware, firmware or software), Class 12 (vehicles), Class 14 (horological and chronometric instruments), Class 28 (toys, games and playthings), and Class 37 (conversion, repair, servicing) as per the Nice Classification. The applications were refused as they were contrary to the provisions laid out in the UK Trade Marks Act 1994 (Section 3(1)(b) and (c)) insofar as they were considered to be descriptive of a sports utility vehicle and devoid of any distinctive character.
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