Citigroup fails to halt
AT&T use of 'thanks'
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[August 12, 2016]
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A judge on
Thursday rejected Citigroup Inc's bid for a preliminary injunction
to stop AT&T Inc from using the phrase "AT&T thanks" on a customer
loyalty program, which the bank called too similar to its
U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan said Citigroup
has not shown that customers would likely be confused, or that it
would suffer irreparable harm, if AT&T kept saying "AT&T thanks"
while the bank's lawsuit continued.
She also said AT&T provided solid evidence that forcing it to start
saying something other than "AT&T thanks" would cause an "expensive
and significant disruption."
Citigroup had no immediate comment. AT&T said in a statement it was
pleased with the decision, and maintained that "the law does not
allow one company to own the word 'thanks.'"
The fourth-largest U.S. bank by assets sued AT&T on June 9, one week
after the Dallas-based phone company launched "AT&T thanks" in a
dispute that threatened to damage a co-branding relationship dating
Citigroup said AT&T went too far, having known it would object after
the New York-based bank had since 2004 extensively used "thankyou"
on its own customer loyalty and reward programs.
According to court papers, Citigroup's "thankyou" programs have
about 15 million members in the United States, and 1.7 million
customers there have AT&T co-branded credit cards.
But in her 30-page decision, Forrest said the companies are
targeting different markets, finance and telecommunications, and use
different logos, typefaces and colors in their marketing.
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People walk past the AT&T store in New York's Times Square, June 17,
2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
She said this counteracts the slogans' "obvious similarities, at least when
considered in the abstract: 'AT&T THANKS' and 'THANK YOU' share five central
letters, are partially pronounced similarly, and both convey a message of
Forrest also found no evidence of consumer confusion, and said Citigroup's
evidence of what it called "many negative comments" about the "AT&T thanks"
program show that consumers in fact could distinguish it from the bank's
The judge has not ruled on whether AT&T actually infringed Citigroup's
The case is Citigroup Inc v. AT&T Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern
District of New York, No. 16-04333.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant
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