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Citigroup Sues AT&T For Saying 'Thanks' To Customers (techdirt.com) 281

An anonymous reader writes: Citigroup has a trademark on "THANKYOU" and is currently using it to sue ATT for using "Thanks." Ars Technica reports: "Who knew? Banking giant Citigroup has trademarked 'THANKYOU' and is now suing technology giant ATT for how it says thanks to its own loyal customers. This is 'unlawful conduct' amounting to wanton trademark infringement, Citigroup claims in its federal lawsuit." Citigroup doesn't appear to be gracious in its branding: Despite actual knowledge of Citigroup's substantial use of and exclusive rights in the THANKYOU Marks, Citigroup's use of the marks in connection with ATT co-branded credit cards, and Citigroup's concerns regarding ATT's proposed trademarks, ATT launched a customer loyalty program under the trademarks "thanks" and "ATT thanks" on or about June 2, 2016. ATT's use of the "thanks" and "ATT thanks" trademarks is likely to cause consumer confusion and constitutes trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition in violation of Citigroup's rights. Citigroup therefore seeks to enjoin ATT's infringing conduct and to recover damages based on the injury ATT's conduct has caused to Citigroup as well as ATT's unjust enrichment. In April, ATT applied to trademark "ATT THANKS." Citigroup wants that trademark to be rejected because it thinks that proposed trademark is "confusingly similar to Citigroup's "THANKYOU Marks," according to its lawsuit.
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Citigroup Sues AT&T For Saying 'Thanks' To Customers

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  • I Love You (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 16, 2016 @09:09PM (#52333219)

    Welcome to COSTCO, I Love You.

    Idiocracy at its best!

    • Re:I Love You (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @09:29PM (#52333331) Homepage Journal

      I always wondered why they said "I love you", seemed weird to me.

      Seeing stupid bullshit like being able to trademark "Thank you" does explain it all though.

      United States of America, land of the lawsuits.

      • Re:I Love You (Score:5, Insightful)

        by michelcolman ( 1208008 ) on Friday June 17, 2016 @01:33AM (#52333971)

        They do have a point. You know, whenever someone says "thank you" to me, I always naturally assume that they are working for Citigroup. When it turns out they don't work for Citigroup and they were just saying it to be nice, it confuses the hell out of me. Could everyone please stop abusing registered trademarks like that? Thank you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by slashrio ( 2584709 )
        No, they don't say "Thank you", Citigroup says "Thankyou".
        If AT&T would just say "Thank you", there wouldn't be any problem.
        To me it's a mystery why anyone would intentionally make an error, but hey, that's why it's a big company:
        The bigger the more stupid they behave.
        • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )

          No, they don't say "Thank you", Citigroup says "Thankyou". If AT&T would just say "Thank you", there wouldn't be any problem.

          FTFA: AT&T is saying "thanks". Apparently there is a problem, since there's no "you" there in any way.

    • Idiocracy at its best!

      I think it's a brilliant way to transfer money. Somebody gets a nice write off, while the other scurries off to the Caymans. They perform this circus to give the papers something to print.

      Thanks Obama! ®

    • by arglebargle_xiv ( 2212710 ) on Friday June 17, 2016 @12:24AM (#52333833)
      AT&T should just trademark "Fuck you", which is what they're really doing to customers. I don't think Citigroup would object, since their real motto, "Screw you", sounds substantially different.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 16, 2016 @09:09PM (#52333221)

    The dumbest thing I've ever fucking seen. There are no words for the fact that we've gotten so low as to trademark appreciation. Not to mention the fact that these are two companies who, to the best of my knowledge, fuck their customers in the wallet in unconscionable ways with frequency.

    Things like this are why people are against overuse of IP laws.

    Best fucking CAPTCHA I've ever seen: truthful.

  • by Hasaf ( 3744357 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @09:11PM (#52333229)

    I think I am going to give a shot at saying "Citigroup" instead of thank-you. Them , when people look at me with a dumfounded expression, I can explain that Citigoup has established ownership over the words "Thank You" and "thanks."

    Citigroup for reading my silly idea.

    • by ZipK ( 1051658 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @09:30PM (#52333339)
      Citigroup for sharing.
    • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @10:03PM (#52333473)

      Citigroup's "Thank you" is a loyalty rewards service. AT&T's "Thank you" is also a loyalty rewards service. It'd be like Wendy's offering a Super Size menu. The article even says as much but since the dipshit that wrote it went off on a knee-jerk reaction you've been mislead to believe that it's about usage of the simple phrase.

      This is not the site to go to if you want informed news on patents, trademarks, or copyrights. Hell, half the commenters on this site think Apple owns anything with a rounded corner.

      • by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @10:18PM (#52333533)

        It's "Thanks." I mean fuck man, it's "Thanks." I get what you're saying but it's about one of the most common terms in the English language. This entire thing is beyond fucked up. It makes me want to hate them for their arrogance in claiming the word "Thanks." I already hate Citigroup anyway but I used to hate AT&T more. Now they've moved ahead on the shitty fucking corporation list.

        • No, they didn't claim the word thanks, they claimed a loyalty reward program called "Thank you". If you're mad about this then you've been mad at Google over their trademark of "Android" for a long time now.

          • by I'm New Around Here ( 1154723 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @10:52PM (#52333623)

            No, they didn't claim the word thanks, they claimed a loyalty reward program called "Thank you". If you're mad about this then you've been mad at Google over their trademark of "Android" for a long time now.

            No, they claimed a loyalty reward program called "THANKYOU". Not "Thank you", and certainly not "Thanks", and most certainly not "ATT Thanks". Those are all different. Whether they are too similar is apparently up to a judge/jury.

            • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

              Just to be clear, you do understand that the whole point of trademarks is to avoid brand confusion, right? As a consumer, you'd like to know the difference between an Acer laptop and an Aoer laptop.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Anonymous Coward

                That's spot on. And that's why trivial words like 'thank you' or 'windows' should never be allowed to be used as trademark in the first place.

              • by Calydor ( 739835 )

                In that case, GG, game over, Citigroup for playing.

                They have trademarked THANKYOU in relation to loyalty programs. NO OTHER EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE can now be used for a loyalty program!

                Is that the kind of trademark law you want?

          • Google would have an uphill battle actually trying to defend Android.
            • That depends on the case. Trademarks only apply in the same field. An unaffiliated smartphone product (like an OS) which is not using android code using the name - they'd have an easy victory.
              Using it to refer to commander Data ? No problem - the trademark does not apply since it's not the same field (fiction versus smartphones). If you built an actual android and called it an android they almost certainly wouldn't try to enforce it since it's common knowledge the term actually means the thing you just call

          • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

            I don't say Android 50 times a day. You can't see the difference between Android and Thank You? Some people might go their entire life and never say the word Android. Hell, most old people call every smartphone an iPhone anyway. Words like Thanks, Hello, Goodbye? No.

      • >Hell, half the commenters on this site think Apple owns anything with a rounded corner.

        Well, apple thinks so too.

    • by EEPROMS ( 889169 )
      No you should create a new "meme" were the term citigroup means "you are getting seriously screwed".

      Man I'm getting so citigrouped since I updated to windows 10.
      • I got utterly citigrouped at the second hand car-dealer with no lube.

        I refuse to buy Apple because I find getting citigrouped by Tim Cook chafes my ass.

        I like this...

  • Clickbait title (Score:5, Informative)

    by fearofdecaf ( 4390519 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @09:11PM (#52333231)

    Citigroup are suing AT&T for marketing a rewards program based on the word "Thanks" because they have a registered trademark for a rewards program using "Thankyou" marks. This has nothing today with anyone 'saying thanks'.

    No story here. Go about your business.

    • The story here is that a lot of "shareholder value" is being flushed down the shitter, but nobody is sure how to stop it without "giving up their rights [to something of little value]"

    • Re:Clickbait title (Score:5, Informative)

      by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @10:15PM (#52333519)

      Citigroup are suing AT&T for marketing a rewards program based on the word "Thanks" because they have a registered trademark for a rewards program using "Thankyou" marks. This has nothing today with anyone 'saying thanks'.

      No story here. Go about your business.

      This is not off-topic. This is exactly what the article says! Here's a quote from the article:

      Despite actual knowledge of Citigroupâ(TM)s substantial use of and exclusive rights in the THANKYOU Marks, Citigroupâ(TM)s use of the marks in connection with AT&T co-branded credit cards, and Citigroupâ(TM)s concerns regarding AT&Tâ(TM)s proposed trademarks, AT&T launched a customer loyalty program under the trademarks âoethanksâ and âoeAT&T thanksâ on or about June 2, 2016.

      That's a pretty important detail to leave out of the summary! Somebody please fix the parent's moderation.

    • ATT should change their campaign motto to "THANKYOUCOMEAGAIN".

    • No story here. Go about your business.

      Yes Indeed there's no story here. Especially when you consider that this week someone is suing Facebook and Twitter for enabling terrorism, someone is suing Google 4 years after it came up with the idea to throw a router in a balloon, and someone is suing Gawker for writing a story about a lunatic's hairpiece.

      At this point we can just stop reporting anytime someone sues someone in America because quite frankly it's like the national greeting, and certainly not the least friendly greeting you're likely to ge

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 16, 2016 @09:11PM (#52333235)

    Comcast is just waiting for someone to infringe on their "Fuck You" to customers trademark.

  • Much better idea than using a general word that is used by everyone who isn't an asshole and even some who are only passive aggressive. You know the type. They work for AT&T. And apparently Citigroup.
  • by theskipper ( 461997 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @09:13PM (#52333245)

    Even the devil is having trouble picking sides on this one. Mainly because it would mean favoring one child over the other.

  • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @09:15PM (#52333251) Journal
    FUCKYOU
  • It isn't April 1, right?

    Besides, hasn't AT&T been using "Thank you for using AT&T" in adverts / product placement as far back as Back to the Future II and Blade Runner?

    Still.. this is just another sign that the end is nigh. They're running out of scams. Once they're out, what then? Do an honest day's work?

    • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

      But Back to the Future II and Blade Runner are set into the future! It hasn't happened yet!

      What it does tell us is that in the future it's AT&T who are going to own the trademark on "thank you".

      • Umm, i dont know how to tell you this but BttF future is actually set in the PAST now, and we are 3 years away from Blade Runner being the past too.
  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @09:19PM (#52333275) Journal

    I can only think this has to be a joke. Trademarks don't work that way.

    Someone tell me I've been on a huge practical joke TV show and this isn't real, we're not really choosing between a reality TV personality vs a felon for president, and Disney World doesn't really have alligators eating their guests.

    • This is the way trademark law works. You must defend the trademark or risk losing it.

      Citibank's trademark is for a reward points program [thankyou.com]. Their beef is with an AT&T Thanks program [att.com] which, like the Citibank program, rewards loyal customers. So that aspect of trademark infringement (that the two names are for a similar product or service which could be confused) is satisfied. This isn't because AT&T is just saying "Thanks" as TFS claims.

      At that point, even if Citibank thinks the lawsuit is si
      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        This is the way trademark law works. You must defend the trademark or risk losing it.

        This is not the way trademark law works.

        The way trademark law works is that you must defend against legitimate, plausible violations of the trademark that are likely to cause confusion in the marketplace, which this isn't. "Thanks" is clearly not the same as "ThankYou", and more importantly, "AT&T Thanks" is clearly not the same as "Citibank ThankYou Rewards". The fact that AT&T uses their own name as part of thei

      • "This is the way trademark law works. You must defend the trademark or risk losing it."

        Please stop repeating this nonsense. Kleenex, Xerox, Photoshop, Jet-Ski, Jacuzzi and Google are culturally ubiquitous and SHOULD be removed from trademarks, but they arent. Adobe and Google would never be able to do anything else but litigate if your position were true.
        • Having the mark become ubiquitous in language like those examples is different from having other companies using the mark in their product names even if ubiquitous.

          You don't see Minolta or Panasonic selling xerox machines, they sell copiers, other search engines aren't called Google even though the people use googling instead of searching.

          Jacuzzi manufactures whirlpool baths and hot-tubs, as do other companies. But they don't sell them as Jacuzzi's.

          Installers, rental or repair shops might use the mark in

    • Not a joke, just a flamebait distorted title.
  • BiteMe ©

  • by kenwd0elq ( 985465 ) <kenwd0elq@engineer.com> on Thursday June 16, 2016 @09:30PM (#52333337)

    Any government bureaucrat who had ANY involvement, however slight, in approving a trademark for "THANKYOU" should be fired.

  • Yesterday I got a text from T-Mobile.

    "T-Mobile is thanking you with a share of Un-Carrier stock."

    Is Citigroup going to try and take my stock away?

  • by cliffjumper222 ( 229876 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @09:40PM (#52333387)

    This is par for the course in trademark land. Trademark rights might be lost when a trademark owner fails to police its mark against eroded distinctiveness. In this case, Citigroup think that AT&T's use could lessen the distinctiveness of their THANKYOU. On the face of it, it probably does. As a result, their trademark will become weaker, and may lose its distinctiveness entirely. If it does, they could actually lose the mark. To help avoid this, the trademark owner it pretty much obliged to police its mark through legal means, up to and including going to court. This is pretty much mandatory - you need to do this, it's not really an option. Some courts have determined you don't have to prosecute every infringing third-party use, but if you have the money and the mark is worth it to you, then it's a no brainer.

  • The trademark only applies when the business is saying "THANKYOU" when they mean "FUCKYOUVERYMUCH."

    Even with that stipulation, however, Citibank's complaint against AT&T is still quite valid.

  • by Livius ( 318358 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @09:56PM (#52333449)

    ATT's use of the "thanks" and "ATT thanks" trademarks is likely to cause consumer confusion

    It's true, people are surprised and confused to hear the word "thanks" coming from either of those corporations.

  • are a good reason to have it so trademark trolls lose every single trademark they ever have had, and are barred from ever getting anymore.
  • dreaming this up in their hangover need to get a life!

  • by Steve1952 ( 651150 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @10:08PM (#52333485)
    I looked this up at the USPTO trademark site. It is registered trademark 3249982. Usually, a trademark examiner who is say...awake, would immediately reject the application on the basis that "THANKYOU" is "generic". Not here. The examiner just gave an initial "thumbs up" with no objection, and the rest is history. Amazing.
    • And it's for "Promoting the goods and services of others through credit card customer loyalty, reward and redemption programs."

      Does AT&T issue credit cards now?

      • by jeaton ( 44965 )

        https://accountonline.citi.com... [citi.com]

        There's actually an AT&T branded credit card, issued by.... Citibank. When they first came out, it was a combination long distance calling card and credit card. Now, as far as I can tell, it's just another credit card with no particular other benefit.

        I suspect that this is at the root of the lawsuit. Because AT&T is already in business with Citibank (and their combined credit card is one that offers the "thankyou" (tm) benefits), Citibank is annoyed that AT&T

  • Typical of all ISPs, you will never get a "thank you" from them as a stable long standing customer. They strictly want "new customers" or "new service".

    They sort of expect you to leave.. after a short period of time.

  • by Skapare ( 16644 )
    Can we use Swedish, instead?
  • Now "thanks" doesn't even sound like a word to me.

  • I figure "F*ck you" is closer to "Thank you" than "Thanks", no?

  • Was this lawsuit pulled from the Onion?

    This doesn't even make sense anymore.

  • nobody should be allowed to patent something as common as saying, printing or texting "thankyou" same with any other verbiage that is common to conversation
  • "Mom", "Love" and "Screen door" are registered trademarks of Mom Corp.

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