FCA Cannot Register Jeep “Moab” Trademark After Federal Court Ruling

FCA Loses Appeal To Register "Moab" Trademark In Federal Court Ruling
Fiat Chrysler cannot register the “Moab” name as a trademark, according to a recent court ruling. [Photos: Jeep]
  • A federal appeals court backed the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s decision to refuse Fiat Chrysler the “Moab” trademark.
  • FCA’s application originally rejected for confusion with an existing trademark.

Fiat Chrysler cannot trademark the “Moab” name for its Jeep Wrangler models, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled. According to the October 2 ruling, the court affirmed the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)’s earlier decision to refuse FCA’s trademark application, as their use of the name would create confusion with Arizona-based Jeep conversion company Moab Industries. It is a blow to FCA’s efforts to use the “Moab” name as a trim for the Jeep Wrangler.

Jeep originally introduced the Moab name on the Wrangler JK, and later on the 2019 Wrangler JL.

Arizona-based Moab Industries sued FCA for trademark infringement for their use of the name “Moab” on the Jeep Wrangler JK and JL.

A years-long decision process

According to the ruling, Fiat Chrysler originally submitted its application in June 2012. In its application, the company sought to register the trademark for “motor vehicles, namely, passenger automobiles, their structural parts, trim and badges.” In September 2012, the trademark examiner refused the registration. Another examiner affirmed that decision in April 2013. When Jeep brought out the 2013 Wrangler Moab Edition, Moab Industries sued FCA for trademark infringement. In October 2013, FCA filed an appeal with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

After three years of suspended action on the application, the case went to a four-day trial in 2016. The District Court in Arizona issued an opinion in FCA’s favor, ruling the confusion between Moab Industries and FCA’s Moab Special Edition was “unlikely”. That decision played to the company’s point in its application, but did not grant Fiat Chrysler the “Moab” trademark.

FCA filed another request for reconsideration with the USPTO in December 2016, after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Moab Industries’ appeal in the trademark infringement suit.

Is the 2019 Jeep Wrangler Moab Edition the last model with the name? For now, that seems to be the case.

U.S. Appeals Court Overturns USPTO Ruling

Despite the District Court’s decision saying confusion was unlikely, the USPTO refused FCA’s request for a trademark in February 2017. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed the refusal in April 2018, backing the earlier decision. FCA appealed again in June, trying once more to secure the Moab trademark in federal court.

FCA argued in its application that the absence of actual confusion between the two brands and cited other businesses using the name “Moab”. The company also brought in an expert witness to conduct a survey, which concluded the confusion between the two names was slight. The court ultimately took issue with the Board’s decision, referencing inconsistency in its opinion, as well as FCA’s argument in its appeal, and issued a refusal decision in October 2018.

Finally, we arrive at today’s decision. The U.S. Court of Appeals simply upheld the earlier decision, meaning FCA cannot trademark the “Moab” name. However, that decision does not affect the 2019 Jeep Wrangler Moab or the previous version, as in no retroactive action will be taken in terms of trademark infringement.

FCA’s response

An FCA spokesperson made no official comment on the matter when we reached out. However, to offer more background, the company can still use the Moab name, but is not able to claim it as a trademark, as a result of the previous legal actions.

We reached out to Moab Industries for comment on the decision as well, but they have yet to respond.

Correction 10/3/2019: An earlier version of this article stated that FCA cannot use the “Moab” name. To clarify, the company can use the name for the Jeep Wrangler or any other vehicle, but they cannot register it as a trademark.