By: Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. | Trademark Attorney
A recent trademark dispute has erupted between two automobile manufacturing giants: General Motors (GM) and Ford over "Blue Cruise" and "Super Cruise."
For years the two companies have competed with one another over sales and the production of new, innovative technology. Now, they have taken their rivalry from the showroom to the courtroom. The two companies are engaged head-to-head over the name of a new vehicle released by Ford in April of 2021. This new vehicle, which is equipped with self-navigation and other safety abilities, was named “Blue Cruise,” sparking this conflict over alleged trademark infringement.
Trademark and Trademark Infringement
A trademark is defined by the USPTO as “a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination thereof that identifies and distinguishes the source of goods of one party from those of others.” This means that a trademark is a sort of emblem or insignia that one can use to recognize a particular entity, setting it apart from its competitors. The holder of a trademark is granted special provisions under law that protect the designated mark from theft by competitors. Trademark infringement occurs when an unauthorized entity replicates or appropriates parts of an already registered trademark for their own commercial use.
This case was only initiated on July 23, 2021. General Motors alleges that Ford has committed trademark infringement by seeking to trademark the name “Blue Cruise” since it is similar to their own “Super Cruise.” Both “Blue Cruise” and “Super Cruise” represent technologies with identical purposes. Both are the names of each respective company’s self-driving feature that was recently installed in their vehicles’ newer models.
Key Legal Issue
The major legal issue at hand is that the similarity in marks between General Motors and Ford could create a “likelihood of confusion.” This means that the proposed mark is too similar in appearance, form, or style to an existing trademark and has the potential to be indistinguishable to consumers. Consequently, this could result in the loss of business. General Motors, who is filing this suit against Ford, contends that the presence of “cruise” in both of these marks makes them too similar to one another. Along with this, General Motors’ lawsuit also states that the proposed mark infringes on their ownership of “Cruise, Super Cruise, and Cruise-formative trademarks.” Since General Motors has held the rights to these marks since 2017, they believe that they have a strong case against Ford.
Documentation submitted to the USPTO by General Motors indicates that their company has used “cruise” exclusively in its product line for years, along with establishing its own Bay-Area based subordinate company of the same name. This could definitely lend credence to their argument and display to the USPTO the association between the term and the company. It is up to the USPTO to review these claims and evidence and to decide whether or not they are sufficient to force Ford to desist from using the term.
A trademark is essentially a form of protection over an arrangement of symbols, words, or other particular devices that one creates for the purposes of distinguishing their product from another. Having a trademark registered with the USPTO means that one is entitled to federal legal action if another company infringes on their protected mark, potentially causing harm for their business. The aforementioned trademark dispute between General Motors and Ford concerns potential trademark infringement over the term “cruise” which had been previously trademarked by the former. The incorporation of this term into Ford’s new “Blue Cruise” feature allegedly violates this and can result in the company facing severe penalties if it loses the court battle. It is up to the USPTO to decide whether or not Ford’s use of the term in their commercial activities truly violates any established trademarks belonging to General Motors and if it poses a threat to their business.
Research Assistance: Jace Nath
Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. is a trademark and business attorney. She writes articles on trademark law. She also writes weekly articles on West Indian history and politics to raise awareness of the past, and educate the Caribbean diaspora on the need for legal contracts and trademarks.
She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, a minor degree in History that focused on the slavery and indentured servitude eras, a minor degree in Criminology, and a Juris Doctor degree.
MDGR Law, P.A.