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Hummer grille at issue in 2 suits

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG filed competing federal lawsuits 11 minutes apart this month over a grille design intended for a new GM Hummer.

The Hummer H2 sport-utility vehicle is scheduled to be launched next year. DaimlerChrysler contends the grille is too similar to Jeep's grille and will confuse consumers.

"In fact, we believe General Motors is targeting Jeep vehicle customers who are interested in rugged, go-anywhere, do-anything vehicles," said Jay Cooney, a DaimlerChrysler spokesman.

GM, which acquired the brand name Hummer from AM General two years ago, contends that no one will confuse the H2 with a Jeep.

"Any 10-year-old can tell the difference with or without the grilles," GM spokesman Brian Akre said Wednesday. "It's sort of like saying Arnold Schwarzenegger looks just like Mr. Rogers because both of them have nice smiles."

The Jeep grille looks as though the seven slots have been punched through a sheet of metal. DaimlerChrysler says the look is recognized by the public because of tens of millions of Jeeps that have been sold and billions of dollars in advertising spent over the past 50 years.

GM says its grille design is very wide and very short, with seven short vertical slots. In its lawsuit filed in South Bend, the company said AM General received a trademark for the grille in 1996 and should be allowed to use it. GM has since acquired the brand name Hummer from AM General.

In its lawsuit filed in Toledo, Ohio, DaimlerChrysler alleges trademark infringement, asks the court to block GM's use of the grille and seeks unspecified damages.