by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 27th 2010 4:35pm
Here's an interesting trademark law dispute that hits on something I never would have considered before: can there be trademark protection in a ticker symbol? My first reaction, honestly, was that the whole concept is silly. A ticker symbol is unique, and anyone buying a particular product should simply know what they're investing in, and that includes entering the correct ticker. However, the actual lawsuit (posted below) does make a stronger than expected case that Invesco appears to have copied the ticker symbols of more popular Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and simply added an "S" to the end of each fund. The suing company is a trust, that appears to somehow be associated with S&P, and offers a bunch of ETFs covering different industries, and each one has a ticker symbol that begins with XL, so XLU is for Utilities and XLI is for Industrial. Invesco offered its own series of ETFs, which always began with a P in the ticker symbol, but recently launched a new series of ETFs, each of which matches the categories of the S&P trust industrial categories, where the symbol is identical, except for an S at the end -- i.e., XLUS for Utilities and XLIS for Industrial.
When you look at it that way, suddenly the trademark claim actually looks a bit stronger. The Invesco ETFs do match exactly the plaintiff's list of ETFs, with just the "S" added. I still think that claiming trademark on a ticker symbol seems a bit strange, but it certainly appears that there's at least some intent to confuse potential purchasers of the ETF into thinking Invesco's offerings are actually from the plaintiff trust instead...
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