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  • INEOS owner Jim Ratcliffe once tried to buy the rights to keep building the original Land Rover Defender. JLR didn’t approve the deal, so INEOS went ahead with an alternate-reality version called the Grenadier.
  • This week, a court dismissed JLR’s appeal of the U.K. Intellectual Property Office’s decision that not everyone knows or cares what the original Defender looked like.
  • Turns out, Land Rover never trademarked the Defender’s shape, which gives INEOS the legal window it needs to bring the new 4×4 to life.

    Some things are too obvious not to point out. For example, the INEOS Grenadier shares more than a little of its looks with an old-school Land Rover Defender. It was clear to us when INEOS revealed its upcoming 4×4 SUV last month, and it was clear to Jaguar Land Rover, which filed a lawsuit against INEOS to prevent the Grenadier from coming to market because it was too similar to the original, now-defunct design.

    But that argument was not good enough for the U.K. courts, which this week dismissed JLR’s appeal of a decision by the U.K. Intellectual Property Office that declared that the Defender’s shapes were, well, not legally defensible because they were not distinctive enough. The IP Office said the SUV’s boxy shape “may be unimportant, or may not even register, with average consumers,” even if those in the know can easily spot the similarities.

    JLR, which is owned by India’s Tata Motors, issued a statement to Automotive News about the decision that read, in part: “The Land Rover Defender is an iconic vehicle which is part of Land Rover’s past, present and future. Its unique shape is instantly recognizable and signifies the Land Rover brand around the world.”

    INEOS’s statement, on the other hand, said the ruling means, “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.”

    To do that, INEOS is partnering with Magna Steyr, BMW, and ZF to engineer the Grenadier and says that it has entered the series development phase of the process. Prototype testing is happening now for the permanent all-wheel drive SUV. The company plans to make 25,000 a year and sell them around the world, including in the U.S.

    INEOS can’t exactly hide the Grenadier’s connection to the Defender. The company website says that the vehicle was built “on the legacy of classic 4X4s” and that it has “a boxy body that’s designed rather than styled,” but the real tell here is that billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, who owns INEOS, tried to buy the rights to the original Defender in order to keep producing that model when it was retired. Land Rover wasn’t interested in selling those rights, so Ratcliffe simply moved forward with the Grenadier. He was helped in his quest by the fact that Land Rover never trademarked the OG Defender’s shape, and INEOS is now armed with two legal decisions to turn his dreams into reality.

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