It is never a prudent idea to use a name and coloring scheme that is similar to a business in a related market, especially if that business is the Fortune 500 company Prudential Insurance.
The New Jersey-based financial giant recently sued Philadelphia-based Prudential Bank for trademark infringement and unfair competition, claiming that the bank’s recent name change is causing customer confusion. The company, which sells a range of financial products in addition to selling insurance, filed its lawsuit against Prudential Bank Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that the bank’s decision to change its name from Prudential Savings Bank to Prudential Bank and to use white and blue coloring for its web page “willfully infringed” on the insurance giant’s trademark branding.
“The combination of Prudential Bank’s name, color scheme and lettering style creates an overall commercial impression that is confusingly similar to the overall commercial impression created by the combination of the Prudential [Insurance] mark and Prudential [Insurance] design,” the company said in a complaint that Walsh Pizzi O’Reilly Falanga attorney Tricia O’Reilly filed.
According to the complaint, Prudential Insurance first learned of the alleged similarities after it received a customer complaint about its banking services. The complaint said the insurance company tried to resolve the dispute before bringing a lawsuit, but the two companies were unable to reach an agreement.
The complaint noted that both companies started in the late 1800s, with Prudential insurance opening in 1875, and Prudential Bank, then known as The South Philadelphia Building and Loan Association, in 1886.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the insurance company also adopted the names The Prudential Savings Bank and Prudential Bank and owned the trademark registrations as well, the complaint said. Prudential Insurance also currently owns and operates a bank in Connecticut named Prudential Bank & Trust, the complaint said.
Prudential Bank changed its name to Prudential Savings Association about 50 years ago, the complaint said, and began using the name Prudential Savings Bank in 2001. The complaint also noted that, when the banking company expanded online, it began using the domain name prudentialsavingsbank.com, although that has been changed to psbanker.com.
The banking company had used a blue and red color scheme, but, after its merger and acquisition with Polonia Bank, the company dropped the “Savings” from its name and began using a blue and white color scheme and “lettering style that closely imitates Prudential [Insurance],” the complaint said.
Along with a trademark infringement claim, the insurance company also brought three counts of unfair competition.
According to the docket, Prudential Bank had not yet retained counsel to handle the case by Friday. Prudential Bank’s marketing director did not return a call seeking comment. O’Reilly said she needed to reach out to Prudential Insurance before the company could provide comment for the story.