THANKYOU: Citibank Sues AT&T Over Infringement of Trademark Law
This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.
Chapman University law professor Tom W. Bell once told Reason magazine that copyright law goes against free speech rights protected under the US Constitution. But to Citigroup, the banking giant, copyright law is worth the breach of the law left by our visionary ancestors.
According to Ars Technica, Citgroup has filed a lawsuit against technology company AT&T claiming a trademark infringement. The federal lawsuit, which was lodged this past Friday in New York federal court, contends that Citigroup has trademarked “ THANKYOU,” effectively barring AT&T and other companies from using the same sentence to, well, thank customers.
The lawsuit argues that:
“For many years, Citigroup has used trademarks consisting of and/or containing the term THANKYOU, including THANKYOU, CITI THANKYOU, CITIBUSINESS THANKYOU. THANKYOU FROM CITI, and THANKYOU YOUR WAY, in connection with a variety of customer loyalty, reward, incentive, and redemption programs (collectively, the ‘THANKYOU Marks’).”
But AT&T’s new marketing campaign, which advertises the AT&T Universal Card, a credit card backed by both AT&T and Citigoup, uses “ AT&T THANKS,” and “ thanks” as part of their advertising phrases, causing “consumer confusion” and constituting “trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition in violation of Citigroup’s rights.” The company contends that, since everybody knows that the “THANKYOU marks” are synonymous with Citigroup, the lawsuit asks the judge to block the so-called illegal marketing campaign, adding that Citigroup is entitled to unspecified damages.
To patent attorney and director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom Stephan Kinsella, intellectual property is incompatible with capitalism.
In the past, as well as now, Kinsella argued during a Mises Institute event speech, intellectual property is how “sovereigns or monarchs” issue “monopolies that [protect] various goods and services for a limited period of time.”
When liberals, conservatives, and even some libertarians argue in favor of copyright laws and other intellectual property rules, Kinsella told the audience, they are arguing for the creation and protection of monopoly, an act that stands against the libertarian principles of free and voluntary trade.
The very roots of copyright, Kinsella also argued, is all about censorship.
When printing transformed communication, the government found a way to “control official and political thought” passing “copyright statutes to basically help limit what could be produced and said and what information people could copy and share with each other.”
In today’s world, large companies like Citigroup use copyright and trademark laws to strike deals and protect heir turf, crossing licenses to each other, just like Microsoft and Apple did, protecting their industry from giving smaller players the right to compete with them.
Again, instead of protecting the little guy, copyright laws are used to protect monopolies, making sure the industry’s giants are protected from outside competitors.
Instead of celebrating America’s free speech protections, companies like Citibank prefer to keep their influence unquestioned. Not surprising, considering the American multinational investment banking and financial services corporation is a powerful lobbying force in Washington.