...Wasn’t the “Suburban” name trademarked?

January 1, 2011 | By Richard Prince


The story about the Chevrolet Suburban in the September issue was very interesting and informative. I imagine most readers did not know the Suburban model began as early as 1935.

My purpose for writing is that I also have a Suburban...a Plymouth Suburban. That name is on the car, which is a 1971 Plymouth Fury Station Wagon. The strange thing is the car received a very soft sideswipe on the right front fender and this accident scraped off the emblem name “Custom Suburban,” ruining it. I searched for a long time to replace it. I finally did, finding one at a recycling yard and I even have an extra emblem.

My question is, how can the name “Suburban” be issued to GM cars and also to Chrysler cars when there are registered names and trademarks involved? I have owned this station wagon for 36 years and at times have wondered about the name dilemma.


You pose an interesting question and one for which my research revealed no clear answer. I poked around in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s registered trademark database but since “suburban” is a common word and not just a trade name it’s been used in thousands of business names and there are thousands of trademarks that incorporate the term. That makes it tedious and time consuming to figure out which, if any, of the car companies have trademarked it.

For what they’re worth, however, I’ll offer a few theoretical answers to your question. It’s possible that GM did not register the word “Suburban” with the government until long after other car companies used the same term.

Or maybe there was enough of a difference between the way in which GM used the term and the way in which other car companies used it. For example, Chevrolet called its vehicle a Suburban while Plymouth called the car you have a Custom Suburban. Maybe that was enough of a difference to keep peace between Chevy and Plymouth.

It’s also possible that the term “Suburban” was considered a generic style of vehicle in the same way station wagon, coupe, van and hatchback are, and therefore it could not be trademarked.