Last week General Motors filed an application with United States Patent & Trademark Office to register SS as a trademark (search for 85597402 here). Though Chevrolet has used the SS designation since the early 1960s, first appearing on the ’61 Impala SS, it has apparently never before taken the steps to protect it as a trademark. Trademark registrations have to be for a specific use and in this case the use specified is “Motor land passenger vehicles, namely, automobiles.”
There’s been talk that GM will be reviving a storied nameplate for the civilian version of the RWD Caprice PPV cop cruiser, a name that will also grace Chevy’s forthcoming NASCAR “stock” cars. Some have suggested that the new model will be marketed simply as the Chevy SS. Chevrolet did use the SS name on a concept car for the 2003 show circuit. Using SS as a nameplate, though, might create confusion with how the SS brand has been applied to other Chevy models, and also how any SS would be distinguished from a supposed Impala SS model, seen testing in spy shots.
Actually, the trademark application cites the first use in commerce of the SS mark as March, 16, 2009, which happens to be when the revived Camaro, including its SS variant, went on sale. To me that means that Chevy will continue to use SS as a performance variant even if there is a specific SS model. More likely, though, I think that Chevy is just doing with the SS brand what other manufacturers have done with SVT and AMG nametags, creating a performance sub-brand. Perhaps they are following Chrysler’s example with the SRT brand, creating a SS halo vehicle (as the Viper is to be for SRT) that helps promote regular Chevy’s offered with the SS package.
Now that the factual reporting is out of the way, I have to say that Autoblog’s coverage of this topic is one example of how patents and trademarks are used as interchangable terms when they really aren’t. They repeatedly conflate patents and trademarks in ways that betray a near complete ignorance of the different kinds of intellectual property, what they cover or how rights are secured.
Turns out, though, that General Motors just got around to patenting the designator SS on April 13, 2012.
No, that’s not correct. It turns out, though, that GM filed an application to register a trademark for SS on April 13, 2012. Trademarks are for words and symbols. Patents are for inventions and processes. Other than both being forms of intellectual property and both being managed by the same government agency (though completely different departments of that agency), patents and trademarks have nothing to do with each other. Furthermore, the phrase “patenting” wouldn’t have been applicable even if it was a patent. The application is just the first step in getting either a patent or a trademark.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS