Blog : Did Jaguar Land Rover forget to file the Range Rover Evoque’s Chinese patent in time?

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Jack Yan

The Evoque that's not an Evoque...
The Evoque that’s not an Evoque…

There has been a lot of ongoing press about Landwind’s copy of the Range Rover Evoque, one of my favourite Sloane Ranger SUVs. There’s no way Landwind would have come up with its X7 design independently, and, if put before most occidental courts, there would be a finding in favour of the Indian-owned firm.

People are right to be upset, even in China, which has plenty of firms these days that spend millions on developing a new car and hiring the right talent. The days of SEAT Ibiza and Daihatsu Charade rip-offs are not completely gone, but if you read the Chinese motoring press, the journalists there are as condemning of copies as their colleagues everywhere else.

While there have been firms that have gone from legitimate licensing to copying (e.g. Zotye and Yema), the reverse has tended to be the case in the Middle Kingdom.

The latest article on the Landwind X7 appears in Haymarket’s Autocar, a magazine I’ve taken since 1980. I think Autocar is being overly cautious by putting copy in quotation marks in its headline.

Landwind has maintained that it’s had no complaints from Jaguar Land Rover, while JLR CEO Dr. Ralf Speth says he will complain. Considering it’s been five years since the Evoque was launched, and news of the copy and Landwind’s patent grant from 2014, has been around for a while, then saying you will complain in 2015 seems a little late.

Actually, it’s very late. What surprises me is that this is something already known in China. As I understand it, a firm which shows a product in China at a Government-sponsored show and wishes to maintain its “novelty” and prevent this sort of piracy from taking place, must register it within six months, under Article 24 of China’s patent law:

“Within six months before the date of application, an invention for which an application is filed for a patent does not lose its novelty under any of the following circumstances:
(1) It is exhibited for the first time at an international exhibition sponsored or recognized by the Chinese Government;
(2) It is published for the first time at a specified academic or technological conference; and
(3) Its contents are divulged by others without the consent of the applicant.”

The Evoque was shown at Guangzhou at a state-sanctioned motor show in December 2010, which meant that Jaguar Land Rover had until June 2011, at the outside, to file this registration. JLR reportedly missed the deadline, with the Patent Office receiving the application on 24 November 2011.

The consequence of missing the period is that an original design becomes an “existing design”. While it’s not entirely the end of the road for Jaguar Land Rover in terms of legal remedies, it is one of the quirks of Chinese intellectual property law, which, sadly, is not as geared to protecting authors as it is in the west.

If Jaguar Land Rover filed an opposition to Landwind’s 2013 patent application, then Landwind can point to Article 62 of the same law: “In a patent infringement dispute, if the accused infringer has evidence to prove that the technology or design exploited is an existing technology or design, the exploitation shall not constitute a patent right infringement.”

I’m not arguing that this is right, nor do I condone the X7, but you wonder why Jaguar Land Rover hasn’t taken action. The above may be why the company has stayed silent on the whole affair.

This is why I read nothing on any action being taken by JLR when the Landwind was first shown, when a patent was granted (a year ago this month), or when the X7 was last displayed at a Chinese motor show, before this month’s Shanghai show, in November 2014.

Land Rover has traditionally been swift in taking on copycats, and it had fought Landwind’s EU Trade Mark registration in 2006. Landwind, which has a connection to previous Land Rover owner Ford, is known to them.

For now, Jaguar Land Rover needs to be asking its lawyers some serious questions…

An earlier version of this piece appeared on Jack Yan’s personal blog.

Jack Yan

CEO, Jack Yan & Associates; publisher, Lucire; co-chair, the Medinge Group. Founder and editor of Autocade (http://autocade.net).

18 Comments

  1. It would be lovely to see a few of the motoring magazines taking both the Evoque and this other ‘vehicle’ off-roading. I suspect that one of them would then remain ‘off-road’ forever.

  2. Yes one could argue about technicalities of law but it’s still a copy and shouldn’t be allowed. This is the sort of thing that makes (or gives justification) people loose respect for other cultures. The Chinese government obviously doesn’t respect others….it would be nice if everything wasn’t made in China. I think Tata should start making tvs and things in India. So that we have a choice. Alex

      • I agree that this is a copy and it’s one area where the Chinese government should enact laws that bring them into line with the rest of the world. However, till it does, Jaguar Land Rover should have sorted its paperwork out in time—Landwind has pulled a fast one on them before, so it’s not as though this was the first time. We expect Chinese firms working in the west to comply with our laws, and equally I’m sure they expect anyone working there to comply with theirs, even if they are unfair. It’s why Google had to pull out, because it decided Chinese laws over censorship weren’t for them.

        I wrote this piece not to defend Landwind, who should be condemned for its actions. Even in China, this is considered a low blow, and the media coverage there tends to be very negative toward clones. But we keep hearing from JLR that they are upset, and have done for years, yet they have not lifted a finger, and Landwind says they’ve heard nothing from JLR. The question then is: why? That’s what I wanted to address.

        I agree with you that the Chinese government doesn’t play fair—this patent law is old and should have been updated—and that Indian manufacture may be desirable. India, having inherited a legal system from the UK, has better IP protection, too. From what I have seen of Indian-made Toyotas and Hondas, they’re the equal of anything from Japan. Of course, we do get some Indian cars like the Hyundai i20 and Nissan Micra already, which arguably aren’t the equal of their Korean and Japanese equivalents.

    • They’re only made in China for the Chinese market.

      Surely JLR’s Chinese JV partner would be objecting to this clone as well?

  3. I am not sure this is about patents. Patents protect inventions. Copyright protects design.

    This car could not be sold in Europe, as the JLR design is protected by local laws. However, it seems that similar laws do not exist in China.

    From the FT:

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/533012c6-e74e-11e4-8e3f-00144feab7de.html#axzz3Y1VirZYA

    Comments from the JLR CEO, Ralph Speth:

    “There are no laws . . . to protect us,” Mr Speth claimed. “We have to take it as it is. It’s a pity but it is as it is. In Europe, we can be protected against this kind of copy-paste in the design language, in the features but also the technology. You can’t be protected in China.”

    He added: “I really regret that all of a sudden copy-paste is coming up again. That will not help the reputation of China, of Chinese industry at all.”

    High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additional rights. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/533012c6-e74e-11e4-8e3f-00144feab7de.html#ixzz3Y1WmAOKl

    He said: “In our development activities, we have adhered to all national laws and regulations. But during this process we will not respond to every reproach with an attack of our own because the media and the public are capable of making their own judgments.”

    • In China, this is covered by patent law and one can file design patents, even in Britain. Dr Speth is wrong, however, and that was part of the motive for writing this article: the laws exist in China, but unfortunately JLR forgot to take advantage of them. One has to ask why there have been endless complaints to the media but not a single opposition filed against Landwind. Or why, when JLR finally got round to filing a patent, it was done in November 2011, five months after its deadline. The X7 was known to readers of this website for years, in particular on the day the patent was granted.

      Anywhere else, an injunction could be slapped on so fast against Landwind and you are correct that this would be done under copyright law. In an occidental court, the scenes à faire approach would be used if it reached a courtroom, which Landwind would easily lose.

  4. Incredible!! I’ve seen other blatant Chinese copies, on Top Gear I think.

    To my eye, the new Suzuki Vitara has a strong look of Evoque in its headlight treatment.

    • There are still some awful Chinese copies. Two that spring to mind are:
      • BYD F0 (http://autocade.net/index.php/BYD_F0 )—so close to the Toyota Aygo they even pirated the publicity shot and retouched it;
      • Zotye Z100 (http://autocade.net/index.php/Zotye_Z100 )—basically a version of the Maruti Suzuki A-star (Suzuki Alto in some countries), right down to the dimensions.

      The sad thing with Zotye is that it started off as a manufacturer of properly licensed Fiats, and went backwards to make clones.

      There will be some things that are common between the Suzuki and Evoque, just because of trends.

      The Top Gear example you recall might be of the Shuanghuan CEO (http://autocade.net/index.php/Shuanghuan_CEO ), which BMW sued over. However, this is one case where I think the court was right, and the result would have been the same in a common law jurisdiction like the UK. Look more closely and the front is far closer to a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado’s, and there’s neither a kidney grille nor a Hofmeister-Knick. It’s a mess, but Shuanghuan could easily argue that it picks up on period SUV trends as Suzuki has with the Vitara. If the case were fought in the UK, BMW would have to prove objective similarity to shift the onus of proof on to Shuanghuan. A court will examine what features are functional (e.g. most software tends to have ‘File Edit View’), then what are influenced by trends, and what’s left is how they determine if one thing is a copy of another. I’ve no doubt that Shuanghuan was trying to pull a fast one but they had the caution to mix up some Toyota cues in there and avoid the obvious BMW ones; Landwind has been blatant and arrogant about the X7, and for this reason I dislike this clone even more than I normally would.

  5. Yes, it looks almost identical to the Evoque… too much so. Going back a few years I remember seeing (on this site) photos of a new “China Brilliance” saloon that looked really similar to the last BMW 5 series. Quite good looking but I believe it failed the recognised safety tests.

    Not sure if anyone else remembers that car?

  6. But it is merely a styling copy, and presumably not a technical copy of the Evouqe. I suppose styling is extremely important nowadays (even if cars just end up looking chubby and fussy), as consumers don’t know much about the mechanics anymore. Especially in the case of the Evoque which is very much a fashion accessory type thing.
    Still, there is something wonderfully hilarious about those chinese rip-offs, such as that Yema Audi a4 thing.

  7. It used to be the case that many European makers scaled down the current American cars when coming up with a new style.

  8. As a person from the country where China is one of their neighbor, Id like to advice them.
    Even if it could be somewhat disappointing, they should try their own design. Of course I know that copies of other cars such as LR Evoque, are sold well in your country(China), and copying others own design would be such a design study, but you need to make advance. Of course we(South Korean) made many copies under lisences(for example, Ford Coatina and Granada by Hyundai), our companies makes their own cars with their own design now. Maybe you guys may be adraid of bad reputations that some ‘export pioneers‘ earned. But, even we were and has solved those troubles and doing so(of course. Its hard to do so for us, Still…). If you guys try your own designs and doing it constantly, this would makes you earn very priceless fruit, even thlugh this must requires you more patience. And this also improve your companies, your products, and your countries image. Please, its time to make your own character. Not a time for copying others own.

  9. Weird how styling can be patented. In the UK styling/design is design registered. It seems that the Chinese and US patents confuses engineering and science innovation with styling/design.

  10. There are plenty of copies of the Citroen ZX that went about years ago – some even look a bit like an Audi A3 or C class Merc!

    The Chery QQ – It was proven that the doors were interchangable between this and its “inspiration” the Daewoo/Chevy Matiz.

    Fiat also had a battle with a Panda clone, which is not to be sold in Europe.

    I’ve seen the local Mazda garage start to sell GreatWall pickups, they look suspiciously like the previous gen Isuzu Denver Rodeo pickups.

    • Meilu and Shanghai Maple made plenty of ZX clones—they were definitely pirated, from those relatively early days of Chinese manufacture. The Audi-esque ZX you are thinking of was probably the Shanghai Maple Haishang, and there was another that took cues from the Cadillac CTS.
         The Chery QQ is interesting, as Chery and Daewoo were in talks until Daewoo collapsed. It was always argued on the Chinese end that some relationship existed, hence those doors fitted: Chery also made a copy of the larger Magnus at this time.
         The Fiat Panda clone—the Changcheng Jinling, or Great Wall Peri—is, in my mind, a clone: as with the X7, one can’t put it down to a coincidence. What’s the bet, though, that Fiat did exactly the same thing as JLR did and not file a patent in time?
         I always thought the Great Wall pick-ups were licensed Isuzu designs, till I looked deeper and found out they aren’t. Changcheng isn’t alone in making those, either: Isuzu pick-up clones are all over the place.
         I’m not condoning any of the copies—the purpose of this comment and the article itself was to show that the media coverage hasn’t been entirely been forthright. The Chinese IP system is unfamiliar and even unfair. The good news is that Chinese mainland consumers think similarly to those elsewhere, which means at some stage, there may be a judge willing to interpret the law to ensure a more just outcome for an original designer. It won’t happen immediately, however.

  11. In the 19th century the British used their power (gunboat diplomacy) to exploit Chinese markets. The wheel has turned and the Chinese are using their power (industrial) to advantage themselves in our msrket. The Japanese Auto industry started with licenced copies of the Austin 7. China is doing the same thing but avoiding the licence fee as no one needs to buy blueprints anymore.

    Its a wonder they haven’t started building copies of retro cars. Imagine a batch of a few hundred “Long March E Type Roadsters” retailing here for the price of a Focus.

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