Winsbury Company believes it has found the perfect way to help bank clients step up disclosures about mutual funds. The only problem is Wells Fargo & Co. came up with the idea first - and apparently is reluctant to share it.
Wells Fargo, based in San Francisco, hit upon the idea of using the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. seal with a bold diagonal slash through it on all mutual fund marketing materials. The clear message: Mutual funds, unlike bank deposits, don't carry the FDIC's protection.
Wells Fargo has incorporated the logo into all aspects of its marketing materials, including brochures and desktop signs. The message is so simple and direct that Comptroller of the Currency Eugene Ludwig has singled out Well Fargo's efforts for praise in speeches to bankers.
The FDIC has indicated that it does not have a problem with banks using the FDIC logo in this way, as long as it is not a stand-alone measure.
But Wells is apparently being territorial about the illustrations. Marketers at Winsbury say they were told by a compliance officer who has since left Wells Fargo that the bank was looking into trademarking the slash/FDIC combo. Winsbury was still trying to get a definitive answer from Wells Fargo last week. Wells Fargo officials could not be reached for comment.
A trademark attorney in New York said Wells would probably have a difficult time trying to claim the generic "slash" logo as its own.
"These are commonly known and used symbols," said Robert Alpert, partner at Ladas & Parry. "It would be like dropping the logo over a picture of a hot fudge sundae and saying no one else could do that."