This month, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a Trademark Trial and Appeal Board order denying Micro Mobio Corporation's (MMC) petition to cancel General Motors, LLC's (GM) federal trademark registration for SUPER CRUISE.
MMC owns a federal trademark registration for SUPERCRUISE in connection with, among other things, computer hardware for use in receiving and transmitting signals. MMC asserts it first used SUPERCRUISE as a trademark in 2010. GM, on the other hand, owns a federal registration for SUPER CRUISE in connection with its semi-autonomous driving software. It adopted its SUPER CRUISE mark after MMC began using SUPERCRUISE. In its petition to cancel, MMC argued that GM should never have received its registration for SUPER CRUISE, because it was likely to cause consumer confusion with MMC's prior SUPERCRUISE trademark.
The TTAB denied MMC's petition. It ruled that, while the two marks were similar—being identical but for the space in GM's SUPER CRUISE—confusion was nevertheless unlikely because the parties' goods were not closely related. The TTAB reasoned that the goods were not sufficiently related that they would be marketed to the same consumers and rejected MMC's argument that its goods were similar to GM's because they were of the type that might be incorporated into GM's semi-autonomous driving systems. The TTAB also ruled that MMC's SUPERCRUISE mark was conceptually relatively "weak," and therefore only entitled to narrow protection, because it was "highly suggestive" of the nature or quality of MMC's goods, and MMC had failed to introduce evidence demonstrating that the relevant public recognized SUPERCRUISE as denoting a single source.
The Federal Circuit affirmed. It agreed the TTAB had stated the proper standard that "goods are regarded as related if the goods are likely to be encountered by the same purchasers, who would be led to believe the goods came from the same source." It also agreed that MMC's trademark was conceptually "weak," because it was "highly suggestive" of the nature of MMC's goods—notwithstanding MMC's argument that its leadership chose the mark arbitrarily because it "liked the sound" of it.
Going forward, both MMC and GM will retain their respective trademark registrations.
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