Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, the saying goes. And if it’s true, Land Rover should feel very flattered by the creation of the LandWind X7. It is, at least from the outside, nearly an exact replica of the company’s popular Range Rover Evoque.
Speaking to Autocar in the UK, Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth said: “The fact that this kind of copying is ongoing in China is very disappointing. The simple principle is that it is not something that should happen; the Intellectual Property is owned by Jaguar Land Rover and if you break that IP then you are in breach of international regulations that apply around the world.”
This is true, of course, but the odds of the makers of the LandWind X7 landing in hot water is rather slim. There are a great many car clones being created in China, – China has a virtual monopoly on the clone-car market – and none of the makers of these vehicles have been prosecuted. The fact is, unless a manufacturer registers patents on Chinese soil, they have no legal recourse when it comes to dealing with replicas of their products. And even if they do, they have to convince a Chinese judge that their intellectual property has actually been stolen, which hasn’t gone that well traditionally for outside manufacturers.
As I contemplated the issue recently, I found myself wondering: does it actually matter? Isn’t this all just a storm in a teacup?
True, this blatant theft of vehicle designs is infuriating and pathetic, but does it really have an impact on a company such as Land Rover. Is anyone going to accidentally purchase a LandWind X7 when they actually intended to buy an Evoque. Despite the similarity of design, no one is going to mistake a LandWind for an Evoque. An Evoque is a premium vehicle, the LandWind is not. The LandWind (120 000 yuan) is about five times cheaper than the Evoque (528 000 yuan), so I very much doubt that the two vehicles are appealing to the same buyers.
These Chinese clones are exasperating, but ultimately quite harmless – at least for the moment. Until the quality of these cheap reproductions improve drastically, they remain nothing more than very pale imitations of their originals.
What I find more interesting (and troubling) than these laughable clones is the way in which new vehicle technologies nowadays find their way into different makes and models incredibly quickly.
A while ago, I was at a string of vehicle launches where multiple manufacturers laid claim to having created a specific bit of technology (the top-view camera that provides a bird’s- eye view of your car by making use of cameras installed on all sides of a car). These cars came out at about the same time, yet all had this technology. Had all these companies genuinely created this technology independently and at the same time? That seems unlikely to me.
And what about Land Rover’s Terrain Response system? Whenever the company mentions this technology in press releases, it refers to it as “Land Rover’s patented Terrain Response system”, so, if it is patented, why do some many of the company’s competitors now boast similar systems? Is Terrain Response not protected by its patent? How similar does a system need to be before it is actually seen as an illegal copy?
It seems, at least to me, as if a clever bit of new vehicle technology is copied by all and sundry almost as soon as it’s unveiled. Why are manufacturers not more upset by this? My knowledge of intellectual property and copyright law is virtually non-existent, so I’d love to hear from someone who is knowledgeable on the subject. Send an e-mail to [email protected]