ThankYou For Suing: Citigroup Claims Ownership of the Use of “ThankYou”

150px-Citi.svgAT&T-logo_2016We have had a running discussion of how copyright and trademark laws have continued to grow to encompass common terms and images. The latest insanity comes from Banking giant Citigroup, which is suing AT&T for its use of “Thank You” in ads to its customers. That’s right, Citigroup claims to own the trademark on “THANKYOU.” So now even the most common expression of civility is claimed as “unlawful conduct” amounting to wanton trademark infringement.

We have been discussing a disturbing trend in copyright and trademark claims over things occurring in public or common phrases or terms. (For a prior column, click here). We have often discussed the abusive expansion of copyright and trademark laws. This includes common phrases, symbols, and images being claimed as private property. (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). This included a New York artist claiming that he holds the trademark to symbol π.

Citigroup has trademarks the term THANKYOU, including THANKYOU, CITI THANKYOU, CITIBUSINESS THANKYOU. THANKYOU FROM CITI, and THANKYOU YOUR WAY and other permutations as part of its “THANKYOU Marks.” Citigroup was shocked and outraged to learn that another company actually thanked its customers. Citigroup claims that AT&T’s campaign for its Universal Card is illegally marketing the phrases “thanks” and “AT&T THANKS.” It appears that no loner but Citigroup can say thank you because the AT&T thankfulness “is likely to cause consumer confusion and constitutes trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition in violation of Citigroup’s rights.”

By the way, AT&T’s hands are hardly clean. The company in April applied to trademark “AT&T THANKS.” Frankly, it is hard to sympathize with either company as it claims the rights to such a common expression. The biggest problem however is that these companies enlist firms that send out demand letters and force settlements from small businesses or individuals using such terms or images. We have discussed how thuggish these legal factory operations can be in sending out these threats. The Obama Administration and Congress have been willing partners to powerful lobbyists seeking more and more draconian measures for copyright and trademark violations.

However, even if you wanted to, be careful in saying thank you after being fleeced. Civility is now owned by Citigroup.

Here is the complaint in the case: Citigroup Complaint

Kudos: Professor Roger E. Schechter

22 thoughts on “ThankYou For Suing: Citigroup Claims Ownership of the Use of “ThankYou””

  1. Certain words need to be in the public domain for use. Like City. Do not let some dork drop the y and add an i and claim a right to CitiGroup or Group On or WhatNot.

  2. How can you copyright words that have been in common usage for hundreds of years? Who at the copyright office let them get away with this?

  3. Shakespeare’s exact line ”The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” was stated by Dick the Butcher in ”Henry VI,” Part II, act IV, Scene II, Line 73.

  4. Well, this is just ridiculous. But if we won’t do anything about it, and demand change from our representatives, then we get what we deserve.

  5. I’ve always thought Miami Heat President Pat Riley’s copyright on “Three-peat” was a simpleton fleece job. Apart from perpetual war and empire, trademarking THANKYOU shows just how deep into greed Corporate America has taken us.

  6. Thank you! Corporations are flooding the courts with law suits like this and then complaint that injured consumers are suing “too much”.

    Corporations are out of control!

  7. I am surprised this congressional sponsored corporate criminal giants didn’t also grab the following: ‘CITI STICKING IT TO YOU’, ‘SHAFTED BY CITI’, ‘CITI THANKYOU CONGRESS FOR IGNORING OUR CRIMES’, CITI HOW CAN WE FLEECE YOU” or ‘CITI FORECLOSING ON YOU’. These’s still time to grab those catchy monikers.

  8. Then there was the notorious case of a man named Gimbel, who owned a small general store in ME. The Gimbel’s retail behemoth successfully sued to stop him from using the possessive of his surname for the store!

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