By on April 19, 2012

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

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20 Comments on “Is Chevy Launching SS Sub-Brand?
Does Autoblog Know that Trademarks and Patents are Two Different Things?...”

  • avatar

    If Hitler was still around, I’m sure he would sic his lawyers on Chevy.

  • avatar

    Thank you.
    I saw the AB post earlier today, and their continuing reference to patents was driving me crazy.

    Should have figured TTAC would call them on it.
    Maybe we should redefine TTAC as
    Truly, Truly Anal Characters.

  • avatar

    The only people who this will affect are neo-nazis living outside of China.

  • avatar

    It’s good to know that Corvette Z06 and ZR1 aren’t the real deals, and there’s an upcoming SS version to show us the real performance version. Just like the Malibu SS from just a few years back.

  • avatar

    this sounds like a patent troll scheme. Who owns the alphabet? Didn’t Mercedes sue Volvo for their S-versions becasue Mercedes felt entitled to the ” S” class.

    Also, Hitler’s Schutz Staffel already used these letters, so it is not trademarkable anymore. Even outside Germany everyone knows what SS means and respectfully doesn’t use the phrase (respectfully to the victims of the SS I mean). Except GM it seems…

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    SS = Pontiac II!

  • avatar

    “Though Chevrolet has used the SS designation since the early 1960s…”

    No mention of the ’57 Corvette?

  • avatar

    can they trademark “SS” in Germany?

  • avatar

    Attack! No other outlet is worthy of readership!

  • avatar

    Honestly, “SS” was a terrible name to start with, for obvious reasons.

  • avatar

    There may be a problem. I found the following registration:

    Word Mark SS
    Goods and Services IC 012. US 019 021 023 031 035 044. G & S: Off road vehicles, namely, all terrain dune buggies. FIRST USE: 20030100. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20030100
    Serial Number 78796696
    Filing Date January 23, 2006
    Filing Basis 1A
    Original Filing Basis 1A
    Published for Opposition April 17, 2007
    Registration Number 3257933
    Registration Date July 3, 2007
    Owner (REGISTRANT) Klein, Wesley T. DBA Superior Sandcars INDIVIDUAL UNITED STATES 12391 Sampson ave. unit #L riverside CALIFORNIA 92503
    Type of Mark TRADEMARK
    Register PRINCIPAL
    Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

  • avatar

    I hope GM does trademark the “SS” designation, as it is uniquely Chevy. Most of the time it is shown as “SS”, but for at least 1965, it was “Super Sport” spelled out in script, so they need to trademark that too.

    • 0 avatar

      My parents’ car when I was a kid was a ’68 Impala Super Sport, spelled out in several places and abbreviated SS (with the ’60s SS logo that I wish they’s utilize) in others.

  • avatar

    Does GM or Ford have RS registered? Is it generic like GT, LX or XL? Or is it just shared like the SLT on Silverados & Rams? GM is putting the SS before the ‘Camaro’ (SS Camaro), like it’s a division or inhouse tuner like BMW’s M, SVT or AMG that put their trademark before the model. SVT Raptor, M3, etc.

  • avatar

    Ford sold an “Escort SS” in 1981 and a preproduction “Mustang SS” with the new H.O. 302 was featured in an early ’82 issue of Motor Trend. Both cars were ultimately sold as “GTs” for the ’82 model year.

    I always wondered how Ford got away with that. Now I know the answer.

  • avatar

    I remembering hearing the Jaguar link a long time ago.
    Swallow Sidecars was the company, and their first car was the Jaguar SS (for Swallow Sidecars). The guy that told me about it claimed he had me Bill Lyons.

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