After the recent Dunhill case, we just received another breeze of fresh air which confirms the improvement that IP protection is experiencing in China. The auto maker Jaguar Land Rover Corporation(“Land Rover”) won a lawsuit over the Chinese car manufacturer Jiangling Motors Co., Ltd. (“Jiangling”) whose model “Landwind X7” was allegedly copying Land Rover´s model, the Range Rover “Evoque”.
The Beijing Chaoyang District Court issued a decision on March 13, 2019 which ordered Jiangling to cease the production, display, pre-sale and sale of the Landwind X7 models (JX7200 and JX7200L) and awarded a compensation of damages to Land Rover of 1.5million CNY.
Even though Jiangling can still appeal the Court’s decision, we can already claim that this is a landmark case considering that it is the first win by a global automaker in China based on anti-unfair competition. However, in order to understand better the dimension of this case it is helpful pointing out the war history behind between the two companies, Jiangling and LAND ROVER.
In August 2015 Land Rover launched the Landwind X7, a car that brought the attention of consumers for being extremely similar to the Range Rover Evoque, which had come out in 2011.
In December 2010 the Range Rover Evoque was first exhibited at the at the Guangzhou Auto Show.
In November 2011 Land Rover had applied for patent design registration of the Evoque model in China (CN201130436459.3).
In November 2013 Jiangling also applied for patent design registration of the Landwind X7 in China (CN201330528226.5).
In July 2014 Land Rover submitted a patent invalidation request to the National Intellectual Property Office against the Landwind X7.
In February 2015 Jiangling filed a patent invalidation application against Land Rover to the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO).
In June 2016 the SIPO issued a decision ruling that the patents of both parties were invalid. The design of the Evoque lacked novelty since the model had been exhibited in a date before the filing of the patent design application by Land Rover; while the Landwind lacked distinctiveness.
In June 2016 Land Rover sued Jiangling for alleged unfair competition and copyright infringement, alleging that the Landwind X7 was copying the design of the Range Rover Evoque.
The judgment of the Beijing Chaoyang District Court dismissed the existence of any copyright infringement since the design cannot be considered having the state of an artistic creation and cannot be considered it belongs to the sphere of art works as a whole. On the other hand, the decision was based on unfair competition. In particular, the decision states that due to the long-term publicity and use of the Evoque by Land Rover, the relevant public can link the shape and structure of the Evoque car to the specific model of Jaguar Land Rover.
The appearance of the Range Rover Evoque is considered as a shape decoration which holds the requirement of "influential decoration" protected by Article 6 (1) of the 2017 Anti-Unfair Competition Law. The shape and decoration of Jiangling's Landwind X7 have a similar overall visual effect as Evoque, and in particular it is considered to copy five specific elements: suspended roof, push-down roof, up-going feature lines, engine cover and vehicle outline. For this reason the Landwind was causing to the relevant public confusion and misleading.
In my opinion, beyond the amount of compensation awarded by the Court the most remarkable aspect of this decision is that it has opened wider the door to seek relief to IP infringements based on unfair competition, which definitely will lead to a stronger protection of foreign brands in China.