As General Motors and Ford work to develop self-driving vehicles, their lawyers are busy battling over what they should be allowed to call the technology.
Late last month, GM filed a trademark infringement case to block Ford from using the name “BlueCruise” for its soon-to-be-released hands-free driving feature.
Ford says the name choice was inspired by the company’s iconic “Blue Oval” logo. But GM claims that its currently available hands-free driving feature, known as “Super Cruise,” as well as its self-driving car company, Cruise, should preclude Ford from dubbing its upcoming offering “BlueCruise.”
“GM 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,” GM said in a statement.
Ford intends to make its BlueCruise feature available later this year through a software update in some of its current model F-150 pickups and Ford Mustang Mach-E electric SUVs. It responded to the GM suit late Friday with a filing asking that the case be thrown out. Ford also filed papers with the US Patent and Trademark Office, asking that GM be stripped of its trademarks for both “Super Cruise” and the Cruise subsidiary, of which GM is the controlling shareholder.
In its filing with the Patent Office, Ford said that GM “has nothing more than an aspiration to monopolize the word ‘cruise,’ removing it from common automotive industry nomenclature.”
“We think GM’s trademark claims are meritless and frivolous,” Ford said in a statement. “Drivers for decades have understood what cruise control is, every automaker offers it, and ‘cruise’ is common shorthand for the capability. Any number of companies use the word ‘cruise’ in connection with driver assist technology.”
The Super Cruise feature has been available in some Cadillac models since 2017, and is rolling out for 22 additional GM cars this model year and next. Both Super Cruise and Blue Cruise are designed to allow hands-free driving on divided highways such as interstates, although both have cameras monitoring the drivers to make sure they stay in the driver’s seat and remain alert.
GM said in its suit that it had held negotiations with Ford throughout the summer about the trademark dispute. The suit also highlighted a number of other automakers who have come up with names for their driver-assist features that do not include the word “cruise.”
“Cruise and GM do not file this lawsuit lightly. They quickly took action after Ford’s announcement to try to persuade Ford to rebrand its unreleased enhancement, but to no avail,” the company said in its initial filing. “The parties engaged in protracted discussions, but Ford insisted on moving forward with the ‘BlueCruise’ name despite Cruise’s preexisting rights.”
Ford’s motion on Friday said the BlueCruise name has been in development for two years and that it has spent significant money planning for its rollout later this fall. Ford said it would take six to nine months to come up with a new name if it isn’t allowed to use BlueCruise.
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