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AAA Battles GM in Court over GIG

General Motors (GM) and the American Automobile Association (AAA) usually are not at odds. However, the two organizations have found themselves in federal court over the use of new car-sharing service that both have rolled out. 

AAA launched GIG in April 2017.  GIG is a car service in Northern California with the tagline “Get in. Go.” The company grew from 250 cars to 500 within a year, operating in the Eastern Bay Area, with plans to move into Sacramento in 2019.

For its part, GM reportedly began using the trademark MAVEN GIG in 2016, for motor vehicle rental and leasing services and related website services. GM’s Maven Gig service was developed as a way to provide rental cars to people who want to drive for Uber or Lyft.

The suit

AAA filed a suit on July 7 of 2017, alleging common law trademark infringement and unfair competition, as well as violations of the Lanham Act and the California Business and Professions Code. In January of 2018, GM moved for summary judgment based on the following contentions:

  • GM’s mark using the term “Gig” preceded AAA’s use of its GIG mark.
  • There was no proof that GM willfully tried to infringe on AAA’s trademark.
  • There was no proof that AAA’s GIG program suffered actual damages.

The judge’s ruling

The judge sided with several of AAA’s arguments, finding that GM only used the Maven Gig mark in a pilot program, which was directed to a specific customer who would encounter the trademark if they were a driver, for hire, looking for a car. Moreover, GM changed the name of its leasing and renting related service to “Express Drive” after it landed a deal with Lyft, leading to a potential abandonment of the Maven Gig mark.  The judge further pointed out that expanding to other platforms—a tactic GM attempted when the relationship with Lyft soured—could amount to further infringement.

Regardless of her findings, the judge granted summary judgment to GM, ruling that the company did not act with intent to harm AAA. She added that GM acted with a good faith belief that it owned the mark and could rightfully use it.

In complicated cases involving trademark disputes such as this, an intellectual property attorney with experience handling trademark issues can be a tremendous asset in guiding both new and established businesses.