Trademark Law

Use of 'thanks' in loyalty program will confuse consumers, Citigroup says in suit against AT&T

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Does the use of “thanks” in an AT&T customer rewards program amount to trademark infringement?

Yes, says Citigroup Inc, and it will confuse consumers, because the bank has used the phrase “thankyou” in various customer loyalty and rewards programs since 2004, Reuters reports. Citigroup recently filed a trademark lawsuit against AT&T, which in June began using the term “AT&T thanks” in its customer rewards program.

The Southern District of New York suit seeks unspecified damages. Although AT&T knew about Citigroup’s concerns, the article reports, the Dallas-based company in April asked the government to register an “AT&T thanks” trademark.

Approximately 15 million people participate in Citigroup’s “thankyou” programs, according to Reuters. The Citigroup and AT&T also have a co-branded credit card, the AT&T Universal Card.

“This may come as a surprise to Citigroup, but the law does not allow one company to own the word ‘thanks,’” AT&T spokesman Fletcher Cook told Reuters. “We’re going to continue to say thanks to our customers.”

A Citigroup spokeswoman declined to comment to Reuters.

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