Given how competitive various industries and markets can be and how much money is often at stake, it’s not surprising to see similar products or innovations arrive concurrently. It’s not necessarily nefarious for different parties to arrive at the same idea, particularly a good one that fills a hole in a market or provides an obvious improvement on an existing item. Sometimes whatever dispute arises is not in the realm of the item itself, but in the names that companies arrive upon for these features or products, even if they’re not particularly inspired.
In the latest chapter of a decades-long rivalry, GM is suing Ford for trademark infringement for the name the latter selected for its hands-free driving technology, according to the Freep. Ford had chosen ‘Blue Cruise’ as the moniker of choice for its version of the tech, and had (and presumably continues to have) plans to roll out the feature to existing Ford vehicles over the course of this year. GM, however, feels the name is too close to their own ‘Super Cruise’ self-driving feature, and decided to file the suit after talks over the use of the name broke down.
GM can certainly claim precedence, as their “Super Cruise” went into use in their vehicles in 2017. And they seem to be asserting that Ford was seeking to capitalize on that somehow by using “cruise” in the name of their own similar self-driving feature. If you were to go even further, you could even argue that ‘blue’ and ‘super’ sound somewhat the same!
GM’s argument seems to hinge around the notion that they can claim some ownership over the word or notion of ‘cruise’, which is a difficult assertion to prove given that cruise control is something that every driver is aware of and has come to exist outside of any particular brand of car. Whether you’re getting into the driver’s seat of a Ford or GM vehicle, or a Honda or Mercedes or frankly any car of any origin, drivers (or at least American drivers) understand that the feature that lets you take your foot off of the gas for a bit is cruise control, and regardless of its origins, you could make a good argument that it’s achieved generic status.
It’s hard to say how much animosity and rivalry can continue across generations in organizations, as people come and go and old conflicts fade into history. Ford and GM are certainly competitors, and it’s not surprising to see competitors use IP to try and hammer the other, justifiably or otherwise. But this case seems petty to a degree that suggests there’s still some enmity that burns between the two one-time titans of the industry.