Ford and GM Feuding Over Names

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Golden2husky Golden2husky on Aug 17, 2021

    Ford is correct IMHO. "Cruise" is pretty generic and yeah, I already associate it with a driving aid. As does everyone else...

  • Rusty_jeep Rusty_jeep on Aug 20, 2021

    anyone remember the Hummer 7-slot grill fight between GM and JeeP?

  • JOHN One is for sale on an ebay car donation site.
  • Scott So they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars and they are promising us a “Cheaper EV”? I wonder how that will look and feel? They killed the Fiesta because they claimed that they couldn’t make a profit on them and when I bought the first one in late 2010 they couldn’t deliver the accessories I wanted for it! Then I bought a 2016 Fiesta ST and again couldn’t get the accessories for it I wanted. They claimed that the components were going to be available, eventually. So they lost on that one as well! I don’t care about what they say anymore. I’ve moved on to another brand.
  • Michael S6 CX 70 or 90 will not be on my buying list. Drove a rental base CX 90 and it was noisy and the engine noise was not pleasant. Ride was rough for a family SUV. Mazda has to understand that what is good for Miata isn't what we expect in semi luxury SUV. My wife's 2012 Buick Enclave has much better Ride and noise level albeit at worse gas millage. Had difficulty pairing my phone with Apple CarPlay
  • Michael S6 What is the metric conversion between one million barrels and the number of votes he expects to buy.
  • NJRide This could give Infiniti dealers an extra product maybe make it a sub brand