Let me start by saying I’m not a lawyer. But I’m a curious sort, and I like to dig into a topic. Over the weekend, I saw a tweet from Mike Levine, director of Ford’s North American production communications, about a General Motors filing a lawsuit against Ford for the use of BlueCruise to describe its Level 2 semi-autonomous technology.
Rather than regurgitate what everyone else is saying, I figured I should ask the real question that needs to be answered: Is Ford truly infringing on GM’s Super Cruise trademark?
A GM Authority article from 2016 posts a picture of the trademark filing, and you can clearly see SUPERCRUISE (one word instead of the two it’s become), will be used to represent “computer software, cameras, ultrasonic sensors, global positioning system and radar object detectors for the semi-autonomous driving of motor vehicles.”
That does sound an awful lot like what BlueCruise is.
According to a Ford Motor Co. press release introducing the technology:
“Using both advanced camera and radar-sensing technologies and building upon Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go, Lane Centering and Speed Sign Recognition, BlueCruise adds a new level of convenience for drivers with vehicles equipped with Ford Co-Pilot360 Technology.”
So, BlueCruise isn’t replacing Co-Pilot360, it’s an evolution of Co-Pilot360.
That’s what BlueCruise is, but what about the name? Can Ford legally use “Cruise” as a part of its name for this technology?
On a legal advice website, I found a question pertaining to the word “Goddess” and someone who wanted to use this word, which is already used in number trademark filings, combined with another word (GoddessGloves) as a part of her own business and trademark. There were a few different legal responses to this, but the most salient comments included the following:
The primary theme I see popping up here is this: Will a consumer be confused by the name?
Though the technologies are similar, which one of the commenters says could be problematic with the word “Goddess,” my question is this: Will someone really go to a Ford dealership expecting to buy a vehicle with Super Cruise?
Obviously, there are a lot of nuances here, and lawyers can argue about anything. But the one thing Levine mentions in his tweet about the BlueCruise lawsuit that strikes a chord is this: “Any number of companies use the word ‘cruise’ to brand driver assist technology.”
With that in mind, was GM really the first to trademark this name for technology? Nope.
Cruise, and thus cruise control, is used on every modern vehicle and no one is suing over that. So, is “cruise” a generic enough term that the GM suit has no merit? Or is the fact that SUPERCRUISE as it was trademarked is too similar in nature to BlueCruise that there could be confusion in the marketplace?
Seriously, comment below. I’d like to know your thoughts.