Back in 2010, the US Patent and Trademark Office granted Citigroup a trademark for “thankyou,” which the company uses for credit card services. Today the company is suing AT&T over its own use of the terms “thanks” and “thanks AT&T.” Check the date, because this isn’t April Fool’s.
Earlier this month AT&T announced a new rewards program called Thanks AT&T which provides customers things like 2-for-1 movie tickets. This didn’t go over well with Citi’s lawyers since Citi has its own rewards program called ThankYou Citi. Citigroup even owns thankyou.com if you’d like to feel a little more sick to your stomach.
As further evidence that our intellectual property laws are one giant joke, not only did the Trademark Office give Citi an exclusive commercial right to use one of the most common phrases in the English language for credit cards, now Citi thinks that it can go after another company for using the phrase in a similar way.
I’m sure Citigroup and others will point out that the company had the ingenious idea of removing the space in between the words “thank” and “you” but that doesn’t seem to be at issue here. Also, if you’re making that argument, you should be fed to geriatric sharks with really dull teeth. When a society grants an exclusive protection on its most common expression of gratitude to a bank for use in commerce, something has gone very, very wrong.
As Reuters points out, Citigroup filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The suit seeks to stop AT&T from using the term “thanks AT&T” and “thanks” in their marketing.
If you still can’t believe that Citigroup was granted a trademark for Thankyou (I couldn’t either), I’ve included a screenshot from the US Patent and Trademark Office below. What a joke.