Jaguar Land Rover Sues to Ban VW Group's SUV Imports to America

Jaguar Land Rover is apparently very protective of its Terrain Response system, a patented technology that alters the behavior of its cars when driving on pavement, grass, gravel, snow, mud, sand, and rocks. The automaker is so protective, in fact, that it has laid down a challenge to several brands under the Volkswagen umbrella to assert that patent, requesting to block U.S. imports of Porsche, Lamborghini, Audi, and VW SUVs which JLR says are using its technology without permission.

The case is filed under In the Matter of Certain Vehicle Control Systems, 337-3508, U.S. International Trade Commission.

“JLR seeks to protect itself and its United States operations from companies that have injected infringing products into the US market that incorporate, without any license from JLR, technology developed by JLR and protected by its patent,” said Jaguar’s lawyer Matthew Moore in the filing.

The vehicles in question include the Porsche Cayenne; Lamborghini Urus; Audi Q8, Q7, Q5, A6 Allroad and E-Tron; and VW’s Tiguan. JLR noted in the complaint that other luxury midsize SUV and compact crossover vehicles can meet consumer demand even if these particular SUVs are banned from the U.S.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because JLR filed a similar complaint against VW-owned Bentley in 2016 not long after the brand launched the Bentayga. The Bentley can be equipped with an all-terrain specification that provides four off-road settings engineered for snow, ice and wet grass; dirt and gravel; mud and trail; and sand. Bentley filed a motion to dismiss that was denied.

Explained by patent lawyer Joseph Herndon, “JLR filed a complaint, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, alleging that Bentley knowingly copied the Terrain Response system installed on JLR’s Range Rover, and which is covered by U.S. Patent No. 7,349,776 that was later reissued as U.S. Patent No. RE46,828.  Specifically, JLR asserted that Bentley infringed at least claims 21, 41, and 46 of the ‘828 patent.”

“Defendants Bentley Motors Ltd. and Bentley Motors, Inc. filed a Motion to Dismiss,” Herndon continued. “The Court denied Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, instead finding that the technology embodied in the ‘828 patent claims improves computer functionality and is directed to ‘a particular way of performing that function,’ rather than merely being directed to performing a function in a computerized manner.”

In layman’s terms, the court denied Bentley’s defense, and it’s still being resolved in court. 

The International Trade Commission hears issues pertaining to unfair trade practices such as patent infringement; it can’t penalize but can block products from entering the U.S. market. This could be a long and drawn-out battle, though as of right now, VW is allowed to continue shipping its products stateside.

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