Truist fights credit union's claims of copyright infringement

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Truist Financial has fought back against a North Carolina credit union that’s suing the new company over its name, claiming copyright infringement.

The $470 billion-asset Truist — created on Dec. 6 when BB&T merged with SunTrust Banks — argued that Truliant Federal Credit Union does not own trademark rights to names that begin with the prefix “tru,” since at least two dozen financial institutions also have names with those letters.

“The truth of the matter is that no one can exclusively own the term ‘tru,' ” Richard Keshian, an attorney for Truist, said in a court document filed in federal court Wednesday.

“In this crowded field, consumers can easily differentiate among these various uses of ‘TRU,' ” Keshian said.

According to Truist, among the banks and credit unions with similar names are TruPoint Bank in Grundy, Va.; Trustmark in Jackson, Miss.; and TrueCore Federal Credit Union in Newark, Ohio.

In addition, about 200 other entities outside of the bank and credit union sectors use the “tru” prefix in their names, Keshian said.

Truist also gave a tiny hint about what its heretofore-undisclosed logo will look like — nothing like Truliant’s blue-and-yellow logo.

Truist "has recently provided its planned new logo and visual identity treatment to [Truliant] under a non-disclosure agreement because the logo has not yet been revealed,” Keshian said. “The marks, as actually used in the marketplace, could not be more dissimilar not only in terms of appearance, sound and meaning but also logo, color scheme, design and stylization.”

In previous court documents, the $2.6 billion-asset Truliant said the Truist name would be harmful to its business because the companies compete head to head in several markets. Truliant operates four branches in its hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C., where Truist maintains a large number of employees and where BB&T had been based. Truliant also has seven branches in Charlotte, N.C., where Truist is headquartered.

The Truist name will “confuse consumers … and undermine the trust we have built in our institution,” Truliant said in a June 17 court document.

Truliant had not filed a response to Truist’s motion as of Wednesday afternoon, but in a statement to the Credit Union Jornal, President Todd Hall said, "We profoundly disagree with the merged banks extraordinary counter claims. This is a clear and intentional appropriation of Truliant’s name and brand equity by a directly overlapping geographic competitor."

He added that he foresees confusion being most prevalent in the digital sphere, suggesting that consumers "will be led down the wrong path while interacting with voice tech, digital assistants, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

"Truliant moves with determination into the next phase of more formal proceedings," Hall continued. "We remain firm in efforts to defend our brand and the interests of our 250,000 member-owners."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe Webster has scheduled a pretrial hearing on Jan. 22 at the federal courthouse in Durham, N.C.

Truliant itself is the creation of a merger. It changed its name in 1999 from AT&T Family Federal Credit Union after it acquired Stroh Brewery Federal Credit Union.

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