Zions Bancorp. has bowed to legal pressure and changed its mind about a name for its California bank.
Zions announced it would adopt the name California Bank and Trust, mooting a challenge from Union Bank of California.
Union Bank sued Zions after the latter announced its intention to call its Golden State affiliate Bank of California-a trademark to which Union Bank and its Japanese parent still laid claim.
"While we still believe that the 'Bank of California' name may be legally available, we've decided to avoid a protracted legal battle in favor of moving forward," said Robert G. Sarver, chief executive officer of California Bank and Trust.
The new bank would combine three recent or pending acquisitions by Salt Lake City-based Zions: $720 million-asset Grossmont Bank of San Diego, $350 million-asset Pacific National Bank of Escondido, and $5 billion-asset Sumitomo Bank of California.
The California banking operation, with about $6 billion of assets, would be fifth-largest in the state.
The Bank of California name has a long history; it was most recently used by the U.S. subsidiary of Mitsubishi Bank Ltd. The Japanese-owned institution changed its name to Union Bank of California after the 1996 merger of Mitsubishi with Bank of Tokyo Ltd. and the merger of their respective California subsidiaries.
In its lawsuit, Union Bank claimed it still uses the Bank of California name in conjunction with several products and services, especially those offered to middle-market business customers. It said the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office renewed the trademark Sept. 24, 1988.
With Zions' decision, announced last Friday, Union Bank is expected to drop the lawsuit.
"We're pleased with the fact that this matter has been resolved quickly, and we wish them well with their new name," said Michael T. Connell, Union Bank senior vice president and associate general counsel.
The new name has a community banking ring that is consistent with Zions' goal of maintaining a local flavor at acquired institutions, said Joseph K. Morford, an analyst at Van Kasper & Co.
"They are positioning themselves as an alternative to BankAmerica and Wells Fargo but with a higher level of personalized service," Mr. Morford said.