U.S. Bancorp has sued a Nebraska bank, claiming that a television ad campaign is false and amounts to unfair competition.

The Minneapolis banking company, which is asking for an unspecified amount of damages, alleged that First National of Nebraska Inc. misused and diluted U.S. Bank's trademarks.

"It disturbs us that they're using our trademarks and former trademarks," said U.S. Bancorp spokesman Donn L. Waage.

"We think it's inappropriate for a company to use it for their own gain."

At issue is a television commercial that ran from late March to the middle of May, ridiculing a fictional bank resembling U.S. Bancorp's Nebraska unit and its predecessor banks.

U.S. Bancorp, formerly First Bank System, became the second-biggest banking company in Nebraska in 1995 after buying Firstier Financial of Omaha.

The ad shows a banker at a desk with a sign that reads "FirstPier" behind him.

"Hi, at FirstPier our motto is, 'Jump on board before we get bought,'" the man says.

The sign behind him is changed to "Second Bank," and the man says "At, uh, Second Bank, uh, well, we could be bought just about any second."

The bank name is changed again, to "U.N. Bank," and the man is replaced by another banker.

U.S. Bancorp said the commercial is misleading because no ownership change has taken place since 1995. The Nebraska subsidiary did change its name but only as part of First Bank System's August 1997 purchase of U.S. Bancorp of Portland, Ore.

U.S. Bancorp said First National didn't ask for permission to use "altered but clearly recognizable versions" of its bank logos in the ad. The logos resemble the Firstier, First Bank, and U.S. Bank logos.

First National executive vice president Charles R. Walker said the $8 billion-asset Omaha company stands by its commercial.

"The ad points out our bank hasn't changed its name since 1863," he said, "and we're delighted about that."

Closely held First National also has no intention of selling, he added.

The commercial was created by Bozell Worldwide Inc., which has represented First National since 1955.

U.S. Bancorp, with assets of $70.9 billion, filed its suit last month in U.S. District Court in Omaha. The company said a trial date has been set for February 1999.

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