Looka­likes in great brawl of China


Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

A new court rul­ing won’t pan­der to the Panda in a copy­cat car case, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

ITAL­IAN car­maker Fiat has a month to ap­peal against a court de­ci­sion against Chi­nese car­maker Great Wall Mo­tors con­cern­ing a copy­cat car claim.

The Shi­ji­azhuang In­ter­me­di­ate Peo­ple’s Court has dis­missed a pa­tent in­fringe­ment com­plaint against Great Wall Mo­tors by Fiat Group Au­to­mo­biles SpA.

Fiat says the Hong Kong-listed Chi­nese car­maker Great Wall Mo­tors’ Peri mod­els in­fringe Fiat’s pa­tent, claim­ing the GWM Peri is a Fiat Panda looka­like.

The is­sue be­tween Great Wall and Fiat is a sen­si­tive one for Aus­tralian Fiat im­porter Ateco Au­to­mo­tive Ltd be­cause it plans to start im­port­ing Great Wall ve­hi­cles late this year.

How­ever, Ateco has no plans to bring in the Fiat Panda, ac­cord­ing to spokesman Ed­ward Rowe.

GWM spokes­woman Ann Wild says Great Wall is still fi­nal­is­ing the ve­hi­cles it will launch here.

She also says the Fiat-GWM le­gal stoush has been dis­cussed lo­cally but is not con­sid­ered an is­sue.

Wild’s pub­lic re­la­tions com­pany is han­dling the launch of the Great Wall ve­hi­cles, which will start with the SA230 util­ity. She says her com­pany has been hired be­cause GWM will be a dis­tinct launch for a new man­u­fac­turer.

‘‘The stable at Ateco (Citroen, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Fer­rari) is quite dif­fer­ent,’’ she says.

Parked side by side, the 1.3-litre Peri looks sur­pris­ingly like the Panda. Great Wall also builds an al­l­elec­tric Peri. How­ever, Great Wall says the court has con­cluded, af­ter ex­am­in­ing pic­tures of Fiat’s patented ex­te­rior de­sign, that there are sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences.

The Ital­ian com­pany has been or­dered to pay court costs of about $1500.

Fiat com­mu­ni­ca­tions spokesman Gual­berto Ranieri is suit­ably guarded about any likely re­sponse from the Ital­ian gi­ant.

‘‘We ac­knowl­edge the Chi­nese court de­ci­sion, not­with­stand­ing we point out that it goes (against) a res­o­lu­tion taken on July 15 by a court in Europe on the same is­sue,’’ Ranieri says.

‘‘Fiat is eval­u­at­ing a num­ber of op­tions on how to pro­ceed.’’

Ranieri would not com­ment on whether Fiat SpA has is­sues with Ateco’s move to im­port GW ve­hi­cles when it im­ports Fi­ats as well.

A Turin court last month banned Great Wall from sell­ing its com­pact Peri in the Euro­pean Union, say­ing it too closely re­sem­bled the Panda.

Great Wall is pre­par­ing for an ap­peal against the rul­ing.

Copy­cat cars have been a prob­lem for other car­mak­ers. Daim­ler Benz, Honda and Gen­eral Mo­tors have all been in­volved in dis­putes with Chi­nese car­mak­ers in the past.

Same dif­fer­ence: (left) the Fiat Panda and (right) the GWM Peri the Ital­ians claim is a copy.

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