For a laugh we sometimes like to look at where serious laws lead to downright bizarre situations. Let’s take a look at the recent case between two of the US’s largest companies: Citigroup and AT&T. Citigroup is suing AT&T for saying ‘Thanks’ to customers. What the?
This is a serious trademark claim where Citigroup is trying to establish just how connected thankyou is to its brand. From the filing:
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.
Yes, it is bizarre that Citigroup are trying to claim that any utterance of the word ‘Thank you’ must be referring to their brand. What is more bizarre is that the word ‘Thank you’ was granted trademark status in the first place. So there is bizarreness all over the place: 1. The trademarking; 2. Citigroup actually suing over this and; 3. AT&T aren’t even using the word ‘Thank you’ in their campaign but ‘Thanks’.
AT&T plans to defend against the lawsuit, spokesman Fletcher Cook said.
"This may come as a surprise to Citigroup, but the law does not allow one company to own the word 'thanks,'" Cook said. "We're going to continue to say thanks to our customers."