The past few month have seen a spate of trademark and copyright filings that some would argue border on the absurd. Several entities have either attempted to trademark or pursued legal action related to trademarks that many would consider to be fairly broad, generic terms or phrases. Perhaps most famously, YouTube personalities tried to trademark the term “react” in relation to their brand of videos. While there are many people sympathetic to those trying to protect their work from theft, it is this type of perceived overreach that can turn support against you and make observers question whether our current system for IP protection works as it should.
One recent case that that drawn attention is a showdown between Citigroup and AT&T. Citigroup have accused AT&T of trademark infringement in the way that it is thanking its customers. In the lawsuit, Citigroup claims that AT&T’s latest marketing campaign, entitled “AT&T thanks” is a violation of their registered marks. Citigroup holds trademarks on a number of terms related to the words “thank you”, including THANKYOU, CITI THANKYOU, and CITIBUSINESS THANK YOU.
In response to this alleged infringement, Citigroup is seeking damages from AT&T, and are asking the courts to block the AT&T ad campaign. The Citigroup lawsuit cites the identifiability of their THANKYOU campaigns and the confusion that may be caused by the AT&T campaign as reasons for the shutdown. AT&T, for its part, has not taken the matter lying down, filing for its own trademark on the phrase “AT&T THANKS.” Unsurprisingly, Citigroup opposes the trademark filing as too similar to its own.
While the future of expressing gratitude is still hanging in the balance, there’s no better time than now to look towards your own trademarks to make sure they’re protected. You work hard to build up equity in your brand, and you don’t want others to try to benefit off that reputation and possibly damage it. Taking the time to register your logos and taglines is a small investment that can have big dividends in peace of mind.