Sonic Automotive Settles Trademark Dispute with TrueCar

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Dealership group Sonic Automotive Inc. has agreed to stop using the term “True Price” as part of an agreement with TrueCar Inc. to settle a trademark-infringement lawsuit.

According to a report from Automotive News, Santa Monica, Calif.-based car-buying website TrueCar filed suit in August 2013 against Charlotte-based Sonic in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, claiming the sole and exclusive rights to the TrueCar trademark and True family of trademarks. TrueCar also accused Sonic of unlawful business practices, false advertising and unfair competition, the publication reported.

Under the settlement announced this week, Sonic has agreed to transfer to TrueCar all rights to and use of its True Price, True View and all other True-related marks. The company had used that branding for its no-haggle pricing model, part of its push to build a better experience for a new generation of car buyers and a business model that is more "predictable, repeatable and sustainable" over the long term. As detailed by the Charlotte Business Journal last fall, that effort also involves no-commission customer-service reps, high-tech showrooms and centralized analytics, accounting and back-office teams at its local headquarters operations.

In addition, Sonic will lift its ban on using TrueCar at its dealerships. The companies didn’t disclose whether there would be any payments as part of the settlement.

“Protecting our valuable intellectual property is of paramount importance to our business, so we are pleased to resolve this litigation,” TrueCar CEO Scott Painter said in a joint statement issued Wednesday afternoon. “Sonic has been a valuable business partner in the past and we look forward to re-establishing a mutually beneficial business relationship with them in the future.”

Jeff Dyke, executive vice president of operations for Sonic, said his company also is pleased to put the dispute with TrueCar in the rearview.

“They will continue to build their brand around True and Sonic will continue to enhance its Sonic brand with its own unique, market-based pricing model,” Dyke said, according to the same news release. “With the lawsuit resolved, Sonic has lifted its policy of not doing business with TrueCar and is open to evaluating from a corporate level whether its dealerships will participate in TrueCar programs going forward.”

Sonic is one of the nation’s largest car-dealership groups, with more than 100 locations in 14 states representing 25 automotive brands. Scott Smith, the oldest son of local motorsports mogul and Sonic founder Bruton Smith, was named earlier this week as the Fortune 500 company's next CEO, although he has largely been running the company for years as its president and chief strategic officer.

The elder Smith, who has transitioned to an executive chairman role, also founded locally based racetrack operator Speedway Motorsports Inc. (NYSE:TRK) and, in January, will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

This article originally appeared on Charlotte Business Journal.

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