Ford and GM Feuding Over Names


Last month, General Motors filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Ford’s use of the term BlueCruise for its SAE Level 2 advanced driving assistance suite. GM has argued the phrase is too close to its own SuperCruise system and wants Blue Oval to ditch the name for something else. Ford recently filed a motion asking the US District Court in San Francisco to throw out the case, as it believes the term cruise is common enough to qualify as ubiquitous.

This is the industrial equivalent of two of your friends screeching at each other because one of them wanted to name their youngest son Landon while the other already named their kid Langston. Though the manufacturer’s feud may be dumber because it’s not exactly like we’ve recently started affixing the word cruise to the systems found inside automobiles.

That’s basically Ford’s case, too. “Consumers understand ‘cruise’ to refer to a feature in their vehicle that performs part of the driving task or assists them in driving, and they do not associate that term with any one company or brand,” Ford argued in its request to dismiss the lawsuit on Friday.

GM’s rebuttal has been that Ford could have easily selected another name, which is true and might even help the feature stand out a bit better. But it’s clear that both companies lack imagination so the successive name would probably be something like Good Drive. There’s also a significant amount of marketing material and money behind the existing names, making them harder to abandon.

This week, GM has been doubling down that it already filed its trademarks with the US Patent and Trademark Office while Ford has been petitioning the government to revoke them. This once again hinges on whether or not terms like cruise are considered common enough. But it feels like a no-brainer. Cruise control has been ubiquitous in cars for decades and there are probably a dozen automotive-themed songs from the Beach Boys that should help with precedent stretching back to the 1960s. But the word itself inarguably stretches back to at least the 17th century as a common nautical term.

Ford believes it was a mistake for the Patent Office to have issued those trademarks to anyone, as they overlap with common terms that have been understood by the driving public for at least a generation. For what it’s worth, the General has vowed to defend its claim. On Monday, the company spoke with The Verge and said it “remains committed to vigorously defending our brands and protecting the equity our products and technology have earned over several years in the market and that won’t change.”

A corporate spokesperson added that Super Cruise was introduced in 2012, and possessed “a well-established commercial presence since 2017.” They argued that the same applied to its self-driving subsidiary of the same name, which was established in 2013.

Frankly, if there’s any fairness left in the justice system, Ford should probably emerge victorious here. But just typing that kind of makes my stomach upset. Something tells me that, if the roles were reversed, Ford would be behaving exactly as General Motors has. These aren’t magnanimous actors trying to build a better world, they’re huge corporations arguing about which words they can control for unpolished driver assistance systems that are encouraging widespread breaches of privacy so they can ultimately make more money.

[Image: General Motors]

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