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GM sues Ford in trademark fight over branding self-driving cars

Semi-autonomous features have become hotly contested battle grounds.
Image: Shutterstock

General Motors Co. is suing its rival Ford Motor Co. for violating a trademarked driver-assist technology that’s used for hands-free features, according to a lawsuit.

The automaker is taking action to protect the Cruise and Super-Cruise brands after Ford in April renamed its Co-Pilot360 automated driving system as Blue Cruise, GM said in court documents filed Friday. Talks to resolve the issue had been unsuccessful, the firm said.

A Ford spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment after normal business hours.

“Ford knew exactly what it was doing,” a unit of Detroit-based GM said in documents filed with the U.S. District Court Northern District of California. “If Ford wanted to adopt a new, unique, brand, it easily could have done so without using the word ‘Cruise’.”

GM first introduced Super Cruise, which allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel for brief periods, on the Cadillac CT6 in 2017. Since then, the company has expanded the technology to allow cars to change lanes on their own, and plans to offer the feature on more models.

The feature also shares a name with Cruise LLC, the self-driving car startup that is majority-controlled by GM.

“While GM had hoped to resolve the trademark infringement matter with Ford amicably, we were left with no choice but to vigorously defend our brands,” GM said in an emailed statement.

Hotly contested
Semi-autonomous features like hands-free driving and crash-avoidance technology have become hotly contested battle grounds as automakers seek to boost prices, best rivals with options that command a premium, and give drivers high-tech bragging rights.

They’re also seen as gateway to getting consumers comfortable with self-driving cars, a space where automotive and tech companies are spending billions in the hopes of unlocking profits from robotaxis and delivery services.

Ford unveiled plans last year to offer its Blue Cruise hands-free driving technology on its F-150 pickup, the top-selling vehicle in America. It’s also offering Blue Cruise as an over-the-air software update on its electric Mustang Mach-E.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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