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Too close for comfort?

In latest alphabet soup scuffle, Honda's Acura says Lincoln moniker is too much like its own

Christine Tierney / The Detroit News

In the latest skirmish, Honda Motor Co. is suing Ford Motor Co. on the grounds that the new Lincoln MKX sport-utility vehicle sounds too much like its own premium Acura SUV, the MDX.

Honda is asking Ford not to use the name MKX or any name that too closely resembles MDX in the suit filed Wednesdayin federal court in Los Angeles.

"Our goal is to protect the Acura MDX name by ensuring that there's no consumer confusion between that and the new Lincoln MKX name," said Mike Spencer, a spokesman for Acura in Torrance, Calif.

Ford was not immediately available for comment.

Such disputes are growing commonplace as more automakers switch to the use of letters instead of proper names to identify their models.

For decades, Germany's premium marques BMW and Mercedes-Benz have used combinations of letters and numbers to identify their model lines. BMW debuted its AM4 in 1932.

Now nameplates such as General Motor Corp.'s Cadillac are doing the same, in part to put greater emphasis on the brand name.

Last March, Nissan Motor Co. filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Audi, accusing Volkswagen AG's premium brand of poaching the letter Q for its new Q7 and Q5 SUVs.

Nissan said it had used Q as the first letter identifying its premium Infiniti vehicles such as the Q45 since 1989 and had registered the slogan "the new Q" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The case was settled out of court in October and the terms kept confidential.

Acura expects a similar outcome. "We anticipate the matter will be resolved out of court," Spencer said.

Ford expects to start selling the MKX, a car-based SUV which it also calls the Mark X, later this year to bolster its flagging Lincoln brand.
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