New York Judge Katherine Forrest has said that AT&T may continue to say "thanks" to customers after Citigroup claimed that the carrier's branding was too close to their own "thankyou." Citigroup sued AT&T for trademark infringement back in June explaining that the "AT&T Thanks" branding was too similar to its own and would confuse consumers. This in turn would cause "irreparable damage" to Citigroup's goodwill and reputation with customers. However, Judge Forrest told Citigroup that they had failed to demonstrate how consumers would be confused by the two campaigns or that the bank had shown its own branding was distinct enough to justify trademark protection. This means that AT&T will be allowed to continue to use the phrasing as Citigroup's lawsuit rumbles on – Citigroup are still pressing for punitive damages against AT&T for saying thank you. In particular, Judge Forrest wrote that "Citigroup's loyalty programs are well-established, but seems [sic] to exist in a marketplace in which names similar to the thankyou marks are used by other producers, thus undercutting their distinctiveness." She explained AT&T and Citigroup's advertising use different logos, colours and address different markets, and that any resolution will require a more detailed look at the evidence.
AT&T, America's second largest carrier, introduced the "AT&T Thanks" loyalty scheme a short time after T-Mobile US introduced "T-Mobile Tuesdays." AT&T's program offers buy one, get one free movie theatre tickets, additional content for DirecTV subscribers and pre-sale tickets from Live Nation. The current batch of loyalty schemes are another front in what remains a vicious price war between America's carriers, which has seen Sprint relegated to the fourth largest carrier as T-Mobile US have performed strongly. Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's majority owner, released results this last week showing how T-Mobile's figures had helped profits. In the short term, price wars are generally news for customers as it results in either prices dropping or more for the money, and often both, but it can also be something of a distraction from the business providing a good quality service. As well as jostling for position with one another, carriers around the world are busy working on a combination of maintaining their current networks, rolling out LTE services and developing and prototyping next generation, or 5G, technologies. AT&T could surely do without the overhead of Citigroup's lawsuit and presumably did not believe a different colour, different logo and the word "thanks" could infringe a trademark. The case continues.