China's electric VW Beetle knockoff shows up in patent images

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Great Wall Motors-owned ORA raised more than a few eyebrows when it unveiled a retro-styled concept called Punk Cat at the 2021 edition of the Shanghai auto show. While it hasn't publicly announced plans to bring the model to production, two versions of the electric Volkswagen Beetle knockoff appeared in patent filings in Europe.

Spotted by CarScoops, the sketches sent to the European Union's Intellectual Property Office (EU IPO) depict two variants of the Punk Cat. One looks a lot like the concept displayed in Shanghai; its unabashedly Beetle-like silhouette is accented by oval headlights, pronounced rear wheel arches, and oval rear lights. The other gains a series of visual updates, including headlights shaped like the rear lights fitted to the Beetle in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, rear wheel arches that look narrower, and a redesigned rear fascia with a spoiler attached to the hatch.

Which design will make the big leap from the drawing board to the showroom floor remains to be seen. It could be one, it could be both, or it could be neither. What's certain is that China-based Great Wall Motors (which operates a joint venture with BMW) published a Registered Community Design (RCD) application for both cars in June 2021. Its request was granted, and the designs expire on June 3, 2026, according to the European patent website.

Volkswagen hasn't commented on Great Wall's move to patent the Punk Cat's design. Whether it could stop the model from reaching showrooms in China, in Europe, or elsewhere remains to be seen. On one hand, Land Rover won a legal battle against Jiangling Motors over the Land Wind X7, which was a Xerox copy of the first-generation Range Rover Evoque. On the other hand, an Italian court opened the door to numerous replicas when it ruled that Ferrari does not own the rights to the 250 GTO's design. It allowed the Italian firm to protect the name, however.

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