Ford Motor Co said late on Friday it will ask the U.S. Patent Office to revoke trademarks which were obtained by General Motors for the terms “Cruise” and “Super Cruise”. Now, the situation has escalated into a legal battle over the words, between motor companies.
GM began by suing Ford over its use of “Blue Cruise” for an automated driving system.
The legal fight between the two Detroit automakers is based on whether “cruise” is a term to be used for any technology that allows a car to “take over some share of driving tasks from a human motorist.”
“To defend itself, Ford has no choice but to ask the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to rescind both of GM’s “Cruise” and “Super Cruise” trademark registrations that should have never been registered in the first place,” a representative for Ford stated. “Any number of companies use the word ‘cruise’ in connection with driver assist technology.”
Modern “Cruise control” was invented in 1948, by the American engineer Ralph Teetor. According to Hyundai, ‘The idea came to him while riding as a passenger in a car driven by his lawyer, who kept speeding up and slowing down every time he talked.’
‘In 1950, Teetor managed to secure a patent for a “speed control device for resisting operation of the accelerator”, and cruise control as we know it was born. By the 1960s, cars from every manufacturer featured a form of cruise control.’
Can words such as “cruise” be monopolized by a specific corporation? Should one motor company hold ownership of something that has existed in almost all manufactured vehicles since 1960? Isn’t something with a universal name—such as motors, seatbelts, airbags, headlights, autonomous vehicle technology, ABS, AWD, or 4WD—fundamentally safer and more user friendly? Should features, or single words—not company names—be regulated?