LONDON -- Jaguar Land Rover won a legal victory and compensation after a court in China ruled that the Jiangling Motor's Landwind X7 SUV was too similar to the Range Rover Evoque.
The Beijing Chaoyang District Court agreed with JLR that that Landwind copied five unique features of the Evoque, which led to widespread customer confusion, JLR said.
The court ruled that Landwind must pay JLR compensation. The ruling refers to the original Landwind X7 from 2014 rather than the more recent facelifted model, which toned down some of the more blatant similarities, JLR said. Landwind can continue selling the facelifted version.
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.
JLR said the court's decision suggests China is taking copying claims more seriously. "This ruling is a clear sign of the law being implemented appropriately to protect consumers and uphold their rights so that they are not confused or misled, while protecting business investment in design and innovation," Keith Benjamin, Jaguar Land Rover's legal affairs chief, said in a statement.
Western automakers have faced difficulties in China caused by domestic brand imitating their designs. Also, a lawsuit can be bad for branding if the Chinese public think a foreign company is bullying domestic competitors.
"The ruling is highly significant," said Michael Dunne, CEO of Hong Kong-based automotive consultant firm ZoZoG. "For years, foreign companies have taken Chinese rivals to court for purloining designs and lost. GM, Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, you name it."
At certain times, Chinese leaders will allow a high-profile foreign "win" in order to win international support, Dunne said.
JLR had its patent on the shape of the Evoque canceled in China in 2016 after a court ruled it was void because the company had patented it outside China first. It responded by suing Jiangling.