Jaguar Land Rover Ltd. has lost its bid to stop what it saw as trademark infringement by Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP). This suit was brought because BRP has an ATV sports vehicle with side-by-side seats named the Can-Am Defender. Jaguar contended that the ATV was an infringement on its Defender SUV, which the auto manufacturer called “the heart and soul of the Land Rover brand.”
A federal court jury in Detroit determined that there was no consumer confusion between the SUV and the ATV. The ruling was based on the jury’s opinion that each was a unique and distinct product and therefore, use of the name for the ATV did not infringe on the mark for the SUV.
Jaguar keeps its mark
BRP asked during the trial that the jury find that Jaguar had abandoned the Defender mark since it had not been in use the U.S. consumer market since 1998. It also asserted that Jaguar made false claims when it renewed its mark in the U.S. On this point, the jury ruled in Jaguar’s favor because the company continued to sell the vehicles to the military and manufactured merchandise, parts and accessories for vehicles made before 1998. It also continued to repair and resell used Defender SUVs.
Different countries have different rulings
Notably, a ruling in the U.K. two years earlier went the other way, forcing BRP to rename its ATV for the entire European market (since Britain was part of the EU at that time).
Even if a ruling goes one way in a foreign market, U.S. courts will come to their own decisions on these matters, rightfully reflecting the circumstances of the case in this market. This is because trademark laws and standards vary from country-to-country. Further, trademark rights are based upon strength of the mark and its use in commerce, which may differ between countries. Those with questions about trademark and intellectual property infringement issues should contact an IP attorney here in the U.S. to better understand their issue and potential solutions.