AT&T Granted Right in Citigroup Lawsuit to Use 'Thanks' in Marketing

Judge Says Citi's Phrase Not Distinctive Enough to Warrant Trademark Protection

Published on .

Most Popular

The right to say "thanks" to customers may not be exclusive to Citigroup.

A Manhattan federal judge on Thursday refused the bank's request for an order barring AT&T from using a commonly uttered expression of gratitude for its customer loyalty program.

Citigroup was seeking to halt the use of the phrase "AT&T Thanks" on the grounds that it was too similar to the "THANKYOU" the bank has been using with its customers since 2004, including on 7 million ThankYou-branded credit cards it has issued.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest said she isn't convinced that Citigroup's phrase is distinctive enough to warrant trademark protection.

The judge agreed with AT&T that "there are and have been dozens upon dozens of goods, services, and entities that made use of variations on the words 'thanks' and 'thank you.'"

The lawsuit will continue, but AT&T claimed victory in the first round.

"As we said when this complaint was filed, the law does not allow one company to own the word 'thanks' and we will continuing showing thanks to our loyal customers," the phone carrier said in a statement.

Citigroup had no immediate comment on the ruling.

-- Bloomberg News