Trademarks : “Thank You” AT&T and CitiGroup
We have come across a lot of bizarre Intellectual Property litigations in the past and the recent trademark dispute involving the banking giant Citigroup and the technology giant AT&T is no different from being considered as one such litigation.
It is to be noted that Citigroup had earlier applied for the trademark “THANKYOU”. Surprisingly they were able to get this phrase trademarked to use it in relation to their goods and services. However, AT&T allegedly used the mark “Thanks” in relation to its goods and services in the form of “AT&T Thanks”. This resulted in Citigroup filing a federal lawsuit against AT&T in June 2016, accusing them of trademark infringement and unlawful conduct on their part. Citigroup alleged that AT&T had used the mark “THANKYOU” for its customers in the same manner as they have been using. Citigroup accused them of creating confusion in the minds of the public by using Citigroup’s “THANKYOU’’ mark.
However, AT&T did not bow down to the claims of Citigroup and in response not only applied to trademark the phrase “AT&T Thanks” but also lodged a counterclaim against Citigroup seeking declaratory relief from the federal Court of US to prevent Citigroup from attempting to monopolize the phrase “THANKYOU”, for its exclusive use.
Well, this is not the very first time that we have come across such strange Intellectual Property litigations. How can we forget the lawsuit where the popular fast food chain, KFC, claimed that they own the words “FAMILY FEAST”, against the use of these words by a pub in England. In yet another instance in the US, a woman tried to trademark a dying man’s last words, “I CAN’T BREATHE” or Walmart, trying to trademark the yellow smiley face design. In 2002, there was a copyright dispute between John Cage and British Compose Mike Batt with reference to a piece that consists of 4 minutes and 33 seconds of absolute silence.
Fortunately both the parties, Citigroup and AT&T came to their senses on this issue on 22nd August, 2016 and decided to drop the litigation.
Authored By- Nikhil Kumar