Land Rover loses trademark battle over Defender SUV's shape

The Ineos Grenadier is moving full speed ahead

INEOS Grenadier Image 1b EMBARGO 00.01 BST 1 JULY 2020
INEOS Grenadier Image 1b EMBARGO 00.01 BST 1 JULY 2020
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Quick: Think of an SUV. Regardless of which specific model popped into your head, it's likely a pretty basic two-box shape that sits well off the ground and has short overhangs front and rear. It probably looked a lot like the seminal Land Rover Defender. And as it turns out, that design is so basic that Jaguar Land Rover just lost a court case in the U.K. to trademark the SUV's shape in an effort to halt the continued development of the recently unveiled Ineos Grenadier.

Ineos Group chairman and well-known British adventurer and billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe has made no qualms over the fact that the Grenadier is inspired by the old-school Defender, equipped as it is with a full frame underneath its boxy bodywork and solid axles front and rear. In fact, Ratcliffe tried to buy the Defender's tooling from Land Rover after the automaker abandoned its classic design in favor of a radically updated unibody replacement. When Land Rover declined, he set out to build a suitable replacement, which we now know as the Grenadier.

The Ineos offering is “A design that is ‘easy-to-read,’ with no ambiguity about the Grenadier’s role in life," according Toby Ecuyer, the Grenadier's head designer. Despite the fact that the Grenadier is unambiguously inspired by the Defender, the U.K.'s Intellectual Property Office declined to grant Land Rover a trademark for the Defender's design, ruling that it's not distinctive enough.

According to Bloomberg, Ineos responded in a statement that the court's ruling confirms "that the shape of the Defender does not serve as a badge of origin for JLR’s goods. ... We continue with our launch plans and are excited to bring The Grenadier to market in 2021." We're excited, too. But we have to wonder if maybe Land Rover should have sought out the same judge that ruled in favor of Jeep over Mahindra.

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