Land Rover Lawsuit Ends in Settlement

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A lawsuit involving allegedly copied off-road car technology has ended in a settlement. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) claimed that Bentley, owned by Volkswagen Group, infringed on its patented Terrain Response for its luxury vehicles.
Bentley shot back, and after a year of escalating tension between the two parties, the dispute appears to be over.
Close-up of hand on Range Rover steering wheel with view of dash
Jaguar Land Rover claims that Bentley copied their off-road tech.

Jaguar Land Rover’s off-road tech

If you take a seat inside a Land Rover and check out the center console, you’ll see a dial with various presets. 
It looks a bit like the mechanism you turn on a washing machine to decide if you want the water hot or cold. Instead of temperature settings, you see icons of things like cacti, snow, and rocks. Turn the dial toward the snow and the Land Rover will adjust to the icy terrain outside, ensuring that you have a safe ride in the winter.
It’s a sleek setup, and it’s been gracing the interior of these cars for many years. The patent for this technology was filed by JLR in 2003 and approved in 2008, as reported by Car and Driver

Why did JLR file a lawsuit against Bentley?

JLR raised concerns when the Bentley Bentayga was released. One of the driving modes on the Bentayga is the All-Terrain Specification. This adds four off-road modes, and spinning the dial lets you change the vehicle’s behavior to respond to outdoor terrain. It looks and acts similar to JLR technology.
Car and Driver noted the caveat that technology licensing between automakers can be complicated. Lots of automakers pay other automakers for their tech, and it can be hard to tease out which brand owns a feature. In 2016, JLR sent an infringement letter to Bentley, likely just hoping to receive royalties.
But Bentley didn’t see it that way. They argued that the features in the Bentayga were typical of this kind of SUV. JLR responded by updating the specifications of the patent to clearly indicate what it claimed Bentley copied. 
JLR then sent more infringement letters to several other VW brands like Porsche, Audi, and Lamborghini, which all had similar off-road driving technology. In 2018, Land Rover sued Bentley for infringement of the new patent that went into effect.

How did Bentley respond to the lawsuit?

Bentley responded by pointing out cars like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII, Hummer H2, and Porsche 959, all of which sported off-road tech years before Land Rover’s feature was patented. Bentley brought up issues with the claims of the patent, arguing that the entire patent should be declared invalid. But this wasn’t successful.
With this small victory, JLR moved forward in late 2020 with their most aggressive move yet: attempting to ban imports of VW’s luxury SUVs into the U.S., citing unfair competition. The suit moved forward, with the U.S. International Trade Commission overseeing it. 
This dramatic patent fight ended quietly. As of October 5, VW has settled with JLR. The details of the settlement haven’t been shared with the public. VW will still be selling its luxury SUVs in the U.S., so rest assured that you can still pick up a Bentayga. 
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