from the you're-welcome dept
It is with mostly pleasure, but a little bit of sadness, that I am here to inform you, dear reader, that the idiotic trademark lawsuit brought by Citigroup against AT&T because it dared to say “thank you” to its customers is dead. Yes, what started only a couple of months ago as an unintentional test to see just how far a large corporation could twist trademark law out of its useful intentions has been dropped by both parties with prejudice, meaning that no further legal action can be taken on the matter.
At issue was AT&T including the phrase “thank you” in some of its messaging and branding. Citigroup, as it turns out, somehow got the USPTO to approve a trademark for the phrase “thankyou” and declared that, largely because the two companies had done some co-branding work in the past, customers might be confused by an AT&T ad thanking them for their business into thinking that it has something to do with Citigroup. I read the argument Citigroup made in its filing as to why this confusion was likely, but my brain came to a screeching halt every few sentences, distracted by questions like, “How much can a bank’s lawyers drink during the day?” and “Precisely how many peyote buttons would I have to swallow before ‘thank you’ equalled ‘Citigroup’ in my addled mind?”
Yet the end of this lawsuit was easily predicted after the court refused Citigroup’s initial request for an injunction against AT&T. That court opinion went further in explaining to Citigroup the flimsy nature of its position than it had to, almost as a warning not to pursue this any further. And, this week, the banking company relented.
Citigroup Inc (C.N) and AT&T Inc (T.N) have ended a court battle over whether the “AT&T thanks” customer loyalty program infringed Citigroup’s trademark in the phrase “thankyou.” The resolution may help preserve a relationship between Citigroup and AT&T dating to 1998 that includes 1.7 million U.S. customers with co-branded credit cards.
“We have decided not to pursue this matter any further and look forward to continuing to work with AT&T,” Citigroup spokeswoman Jennifer Bombardier said in a statement.
I’m sure AT&T appreciates Citigroup dropping the suit, but it’s probably searching for an allowable phrase to express that kind of gratitude. What this may have more to do with is AT&T’s defense that basically consisted of pointing out the ridiculousness of a single company being able to trademark a common phrase like “thank you,” or iterations of it, for any category of anything ever. The end of the suit likely means the end of AT&T’s challenge to the trademark, which is unfortunate.
We’ll have to see if Citigroup has learned its lesson, or if it will choose to bring legal action against any other thankful companies in the future.