Better think twice next time you want to express gratitude. Reuters reports Citigroup filed a lawsuit Friday because AT&T is using the word "thanks." Citigroup has been using the phrase "ThankYou" in marketing for customer loyalty programs since 2004, and it trademarked the phrase in 2010. As Gizmodo puts it, the US Trademark Office basically made it so only Citigroup can use "one of the most common phrases in the English language" in connection with credit cards. That's why it was a problem when AT&T launched its credit card rewards program, "AT&T thanks," on June 2.
Citigroup, which even owns thankyou.com, says AT&T's use of "thanks" and "AT&T thanks" is too similar in content, font, and placement to its trademarked use of "ThankYou" and "Citi ThankYou," Bloomberg reports. About 7 million Citigroup customers have "ThankYou" credit cards, and the company says AT&T will confuse customers and "irreparably damage its goodwill and reputation.” It wants AT&T to stop saying "thanks" and pay damages. "This may come as a surprise to Citigroup, but the law does not allow one company to own the word 'thanks,'" an AT&T spokesperson tells Reuters. "We're going to continue to say thanks to our customers." (Another weird trademark fight: over the celeb name "Kylie.")