Peugeot Motorcycles has been told it must stop selling its Metropolis three-wheeled scooter in France and Italy, as well as pay a hefty €1.5m fine, after the Piaggio Group succeeded in a potentially landmark court ruling over copyright infringement.
The case relates to technology associated with the trend-setting Piaggio MP3, which features a three-wheel set up – two at the front, one at the rear – and how it tilts sideways like a conventional motorcycle.
Though the quirky MP3 drew some derision when it was first launched back in 2006, it has evolved into a big-selling model for the brand and has subsequently spawned a line of other similar models from the likes of Yamaha with its Tricity and recently Peugeot with the Metropolis.
However, by being first on the market, Piaggio has the rights to a number of patents to make the unusual configuration work, with Peugeot judged to have infringed too closely on these by both the Tribunal Judicaire of Paris and the Court of Milan.
As a result of the ruling, Peugeot Motorcycles – now owned by Indian conglomerate Mahindra – has been issued with a €1,500,000 fine in damages, plus penalties and legal expenses.
More significantly, both rulings mean Peugeot is prohibited from producing, promoting, marketing, importing, exporting and possessing any Metropolis that uses the technology in question in both Italy and also its core home market in France.
It will also land a €6,000 fine for every Metropolis sold after a term of 30 days and must withdraw all vehicles – which it describes as counterfeit – from sales within 90 days.
Why unprecedented ruling could open floodgates for legal action
To say Piaggio’s win over Peugeot is a landmark moment is potentially a huge understatement.
The Italian firm has been at the forefront of launching legal action against a raft of manufacturers it feels has infringed on its intellectual property, famously forcing the removal of one bike at EICMA – the Yiben YB 250 SKT – in 2011 because it resembled the MP3.
To date this has mostly been focused on the numerous Chinese manufacturers that have used the iconic Vespa for clear inspiration, though rulings have largely only stretched as far as forbidding them to be sold in Europe, which wasn’t likely to happen anyway.
However, this case sees Piaggio taking on a serious like-for-like rival with which it battles for space in the sales charts and European city streets. It will surely send out a message to other firms that it is not afraid to get stuck into protecting its property and image.
It remains to be seen whether Peugeot will appeal the ruling but at a time when the manufacturer is understood to be considering a major expansion – including a move into small-engine motorcycles – with Mahindra’s financial clout, it will be a major blow to not only remove one of its core models from sale, but do so in its biggest markets of France and Italy.