General Motors Corporation's plans to use 60 years of Jeep® heritage for the design of its Hummer H2 grille will be debated in a South Bend federal court beginning February 6. DaimlerChrysler Corp. is asking the court to prevent GM from launching production of the trademarked, vertically slotted Jeep grille on the upcoming H2.
DaimlerChrysler's motion for preliminary injunction, if granted, does not prevent GM from launching the H2 with its own distinctive grille. The preliminary injunction hearing precedes the actual trial scheduled for December.
The launch of the H2 will "irreparably harm" the Jeep brand and the symbol of the Jeep grille, according expert analysis provided to the court by Northwestern University Professor Gregory Carpenter . Research of sport-utility vehicle customers shows that the grille is cited as the number one "Jeep-like" defining feature.
Temple University Professor Eugene Ericksen describes the Jeep grille as a "famous mark" in his expert analysis provided to the court. His research also uncovered that only a "handful" of SUV customers could correctly identify the Hummer grille, while the while the majority mistakenly identified it as a Jeep design.
Three federal trademark registrations protect the Jeep grille. GM's plans to market the H2 in the mainstream SUV market will dilute the distinctiveness of the Jeep grille and offers significant potential for customer confusion. DaimlerChrysler first brought the trademark concerns to GM's attention over two years ago, in December 1999, prior to bringing the dispute to court in February, 2001.