Citi has offered ThankYou Rewards for many years. Although it means different things for different cardmembers, and has been revamped several times.
- When first introduced in 2004 they would buy you a ticket that met specific restrictions. Then they introduced points with a fixed value. Then they devalued in 2009, no longer allowing redemption of premium cabin tickets at a better rate per point than coach. Then they introduced transferrable points in 2014.
- However only premium cards offer the ability to transfer points to miles.
- Banking product points cannot be transferred to miles at all.
So I’m not sure how well-established a brand there is for the name, and whether consumers identify the name with a clear value proposition.
AT&T is launching a new program, AT&T thanks.
And Citibank is suing for trademark infringement because “Citigroup’s THANKYOU Marks are widely recognized by the general consuming public as a designation of source for Citigroup’s high quality financial services and customer loyalty, reward, incentive, and redemption programs.”
We learn from the suit that “[a]pproximately 7 million customers have THANKYOU-branded credit cards.” Ironically that includes the AT&T credit card which is issued by Citi. There are about 1.7 million Citi AT&T credit card holders.
Citi insists in their lawsuit (.pdf) against AT&T that they have “not consented to or authorized Defendants to use the “thanks”
Citi launched their first iteration of ThankYou Rewards in 2004, and ThanksAgain because a consumer-facing program shortly after that.
Citi issues Hilton co-brand credit cards (albeit not cards that earn ThankYou points), and Hilton has offered discounts under the Thank You Rate.
Citi co-brand partner American Airlines AAdvantage sent out a Thank You greeting one year for the holidays. AAdvantage also said thank you to members for voting it Best Elite Program in the Freddie Awards this year. And they even gave away prizes under the banner ‘thank you’ for chilling out with us.
And AT&T didn’t even say Thank You… just thanks.
I’m not a trademark attorney, and I know that several of my readers are. However use of the terms “thank you” and “thanks” especially in relation to commercial transactions and loyalty are common and in long-standing use.
Citi’s trademarks are all specific to the words ThankYou without a space between them, and for “promoting the goods and services of others,” for “credit card services” and for “providing gift cards and stored value pre-paid card services.”
It’s hard to imagine — even with a co-brand card relationship between the two companies — that Citi could plausibly claim use over AT&T’s (or anyone else’s) use of “thanks” not in direct competition with Citi’s own offering. Saying thanks does not cause consumers to believe they are being thanked by Citibank!
Even the song “Happy Birthday” is set to enter the public domain. It’s time for saying thank you to be encouraged rather than restricted by law.
(HT: Alex Tabarrok)