Copyright case takes telecom company to task for saying thanks

Companies often go to great lengths to ensure that valuable intellectual property remains protected. The methods used by businesses include copyrights, patents and trademarks, which gives them the right to take legal action against another company in the event that infringement occurs. 

This was the case recently for telecom giant AT&T, which has been accused of copyright infringement by Citigroup in a New York federal court for its usage of the word “thanks” in customer-loyalty advertising. AT&T disputes allegations of wrongdoing, stating that it’s not possible for a company to have exclusive rights to a word. Citigroup states that AT&T went ahead with their advertising despite similarities between the two promotions, and contend that the company was aware of previous trademarks. Citigroup also finds fault with the design used on AT&T’s campaign, which they allege bears a likeness to their own. 

The banking and investment company cites a trademark established in 2004, which features the phrase “ThankYou” on credit cards and other materials. Because the original trademark came about as a part of a customer-loyalty campaign, Citigroup alleges AT&T infringed upon their copyright when launching a similar effort aimed at thanking customers for their continued support. The company also claims that customers may be confused by similarities between the two campaigns, and pointed to the more than seven million people in possession of Citibank provided credit cards containing the wording.

Comprehending copyright law can be difficult for many businesses, and failure to gain a real understanding may result in expensive legal battles as illustrated above. Therefore, contacting an attorney is recommended to help you avoid infringing on another company’s intellectual property.

Source: Tech Times, “Citigroup Sues AT&T Over 'Thanks' Word: Copyright Infringement,” Horia Ungureanu, June 12, 2016

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