Jaguar Land Rover loses Defender trademark ruling against Sir Jim Ratcliffe

Jim Ratcliffe

Jaguar Land Rover has lost an attempt to trademark the shape of its old Defender 4×4 after a long-running battle with tycoon Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

Ineos boss Ratcliffe, who plans to make a new off-road vehicle in south Wales called the Grenadier, challenged JLR’s retrospective bid to trademark the Land Rover Defender’s shape.

Britain’s biggest car-maker stopped building the Defender in 2016 at Solihull in the West Midlands after 67 years because it did not meet modern environmental and safety standards. It has only just started making the new Defender in Slovakia, inspired by the old vehicle but using the latest technology.

Ratcliffe has long admired the Defender and made no secret of his plan to borrow from its boxy design with the Grenadier. In 2016, Ineos said it would treat the Defender’s “much-loved shape like a listed building”.

After rejecting Ratcliffe’s attempts to buy equipment used to build the Defender, JLR then tried to trademark six variants stretching from its original 1948 model to the 2016 version. JLR even surveyed 495 people to see if they recognised a picture of the car as a Defender. Between 20% and 40% did.

However, last month, the Intellectual Property Office ruled that the Defender was not sufficiently distinctive from other 4x4s to justify the trademarks.

JLR, which is contesting the ruling in the High Court, said: “The Defender is an iconic vehicle which is part of Jaguar Land Rover’s past, present and future.

“Its unique shape is recognised around the world, with the heritage shape being protected in other key markets.

“Protecting our intellectual property is something we take very seriously, so we are appealing the Intellectual Property Office ruling on the protection of the Defender shape trademarks.”

This is not the first time that jaguar Landrover attempted to tradmark elements of the Defender brand and lost as in May last year, Louise White, acting for the registrar of Trade Marks upheld the opposition by, the Yorkshire based, Twisted Automotive to the registration by JLR of the trademark “LR”.

The application by Jaguar to register trademark “LR” in the UK was in respect of various goods including land vehicles, parts and fittings for vehicles, wheels and their accessories. Twisted opposed the trademark, stating that it had been selling the same goods and providing services under the unregistered sign “LR Motors” since November 2015.

In 2015, businessman Charles Fawcett set up a division of Twisted known as LR Motors for the sale exclusively of second-hand Land Rover Defender vehicles, parts and accessories.

Twisted claimed that it had acquired goodwill under the sign and the use of the trademark applied for by Jaguar would be a misrepresentation to the public amounting to “passing off”.