Citigroup Sues AT&T For Saying 'Thanks' To Customers
from the you're-welcome dept
Whenver we discuss a particularly egregious case of trademark abuse, usually centered around the trademarking of some insanely common word or phrase, there’s always at least one instance of “that joke” in the comments. You know the joke I’m talking about: well, I’ll just trademark X and sue everyone, where X=super-common word or phrase. For example: “I’ll just trademark “trademark” and sue anyone who uses a trademark!”, or, “I’ll just trademark “the” and sue everyone who uses it!” These jokes play on the common problem of generic terms being granted trademarks, but of course they are examples so ridiculous that it couldn’t happen for those specific words and terms. Still, to our lovely commenters, we say, “Thank you.”
Or not, because it appears Citigroup has a trademark on “THANKYOU” and is currently using it to sue AT&T for using “Thanks”.
Who knew? Banking giant Citigroup has trademarked “THANKYOU” and is now suing technology giant AT&T for how it says thanks to its own loyal customers. This is “unlawful conduct” amounting to wanton trademark infringement, Citigroup claims in its federal lawsuit.
You can close your calendar app on your phone down, it isnt April 1st, and this ain’t no joke. The filing by Citigroup is very real and hilarious in its content and claims. First, the filing establishes just how connected “THANKYOU” is to Citigroup.
For many years, Citigroup has used trademarks consisting of and/or containing the term THANKYOU, including THANKYOU, CITI THANKYOU, CITIBUSINESS THANKYOU. THANKYOU FROM CITI, and THANKYOU YOUR WAY, in connection with a variety of customer loyalty, reward, incentive, and redemption programs (collectively, the “THANKYOU Marks”). As a result of Citigroup’s longstanding, extensive, and widespread use, marketing, and promotion of its THANKYOU Marks and services, Citigroup’s THANKYOU Marks are widely recognized by the general consuming public as a designation of source for Citigroup’s high quality financial services and customer loyalty, reward, incentive, and redemption programs.
In other words, everyone knows that when a business says “thank you” it’s talking about Citigroup loyalty rewards. Duh. As per usual, the first folks to blame over this idiocy are at the USPTO, which granted a trademark on the term “THANKYOU”. Why would you do that, USPTO? Have you lost complete control over your mental faculties? There was literally zero chance that this exact kind of dispute wouldn’t be raised.
Which doesn’t mean we can’t point out that Citigroup is being an asshat here. You’re probably thinking that there’s no way Citigroup is actually suing AT&T for being gracious in its branding, but you’d be exactly wrong. Again, from the filing:
Despite actual knowledge of Citigroup’s substantial use of and exclusive rights in the THANKYOU Marks, Citigroup’s use of the marks in connection with AT&T co-branded credit cards, and Citigroup’s concerns regarding AT&T’s proposed trademarks, AT&T launched a customer loyalty program under the trademarks “thanks” and “AT&T thanks” on or about June 2, 2016. 4. AT&T’s use of the “thanks” and “AT&T thanks” trademarks is likely to cause consumer confusion and constitutes trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition in violation of Citigroup’s rights. 5. Citigroup therefore seeks to enjoin AT&T’s infringing conduct and to recover damages based on the injury AT&T’s conduct has caused to Citigroup as well as AT&T’s unjust enrichment.
What. The. Hell. The notion that the use of the term “AT&T Thanks” will cause confusion for the customer is so blatantly insane that it’s hard to know where to begin. I mean, it’s got “AT&T” right there in the words, Citigroup. As for trademarking “THANKYOU” and suing over the use of the word “Thanks”? Hell no. There’s no way that should have ever been allowed and I’d be shocked if AT&T doesn’t immediately petition to have the trademarked expunged. And I’d be shocked if that petition wasn’t approved with haste.
But then again, it got approved in the first place. Than-, er, great job, USPTO.