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UPDATE 2-GM, Cruise sue Ford to block use of 'BlueCruise' name for hands-free driving

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(Adds filing of lawsuit and details from the filing, Ford statement)

By Joseph White

DETROIT, July 24 (Reuters) - General Motors Co and its Cruise robo-taxi subsidiary have filed a lawsuit to stop Ford Motor Co from using the name "BlueCruise" to market its hands-free driving technology, the companies said on Saturday.

In a statement released shortly after midnight Detroit time, GM said Ford's use of the BlueCruise name infringed on GM's Super Cruise trademark, as well as Cruise's trademark.

"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 and protect the equity our products and technology have earned over several years in the market," GM said in its statement.

In the lawsuit, filed on Friday, GM said the automakers had held "protracted discussions" over the matter but failed to resolve the dispute.

GM is claiming trademark infringement and unfair competition in the lawsuit. The No. 1 U.S. automaker has asked the court for an order to prohibit Ford from using the BlueCruise name and unspecified damages.

Ford called the lawsuit, filed in federal court in California, "meritless and frivolous".

"Drivers for decades have understood what cruise control is, every automaker offers it, and 'cruise' is common shorthand for the capability," Ford said in a statement. "That’s why BlueCruise was chosen as the name for the Blue Oval’s next evolution of Ford’s Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control."

Automakers are racing each other to deploy technology to enable drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel in traffic jams or on highways. The so-called Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, such as Tesla Inc's semi-automated Autopilot technology, are not supposed to allow drivers to fully disengage from driving for extended periods.

Automakers have used the word, cruise, for decades to describe cruise control systems which allow drivers to set a speed the car will maintain, usually in highway driving.

"Ford knew what it was doing," GM said in the lawsuit. "Ford's decision to rebrand by using a core mark used by GM and Cruise will inevitably cause confusion."

GM announced in 2012 it would use the name Super Cruise for its hands-free driver assistance technology, and has been marketing the technology using that name since 2017.

GM's majority-owned Cruise self-driving vehicle unit has been operating since 2013.

Ford announced it would use the name BlueCruise https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/ford-offer-hands-free-driving-some-car-truck-models-later-this-year-2021-04-14 for its hands-free driving technology in April this year. (Reporting By Joe White; additional reporting by Ben Klayman, Editing by Himani Sarkar and Clelia Oziel)

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