Truliant Federal Credit Union is suing BB&T Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc. in federal court over their proposed brand name of Truist.
The Truliant trademark infringement lawsuit was filed Monday in the Middle District of North Carolina.
The legal action came less than five days after the super-regional banks unveiled Truist Financial Corp. — to mixed reviews — as the name for its combined holding company and Truist Bank as the retail brand.
The banks announced Feb. 7 that BB&T would acquire SunTrust in a $64 billion megadeal and that the combined bank’s headquarters would be in Charlotte.
Even though the lawsuit involves two Winston-Salem based financial institutions, Truliant is not pulling any legal punches. It is requesting compensatory and punitive damages.
"Defendants have taken advantage of and sought to trade upon the reputation and goodwill developed by Truliant and 'Tru" trademarks ... and to capitalize on the market created by Truliant for its Truliant services. Defendants' acts were committed with the reckless disregard of Truliant's rights."
Truliant is requesting a jury trial. It wants the banks to be prevented from moving forward with marketing Truist at retail or online, including applying for Truist trademarks. BB&T applied June 11 for five sets of trademarks with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
The banks have only disclosed Truist as a brand, waiting to unveil a logo, signs, colors and stock ticker symbol closer to the closing.
"The companies conducted a rigorous process to research, select and secure the new name. Beyond that, BB&T does not comment on pending litigation," BB&T spokesman David White said.
Truliant claims the banks are attempting to piggyback on Truliant's brand efforts since it debuted in June 1999, particularly in the Triad and Charlotte where there is significant retail and operational overlap.
The credit union said allowing Truist in the retail marketplace has the potential to cause "irreparable injury to Truliant and to its business, reputation and goodwill."
“This is a clear infringement on our name, and their proximity to our main business region will confuse consumers and undermine the trust we have built in our institution,” Todd Hall, Truliant’s president, said in a statement.
“As a member-owned cooperative and community leader, it is very important for consumers to be able to make this distinction.”
BB&T and SunTrust said Truist was chosen from what the banks and global marketing firm Interbrand said were “thousands” of choices. Free Dictionary.com defines Truist as “unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness.”
“Truist is the first signal of our bold future together,” the banks said. “It reflects a shared belief in building a better future for our clients and communities.”
The banks' goal is closing on the $66 billion megadeal in September or October.
However, analysts have said getting federal regulatory approvals could stretch into early 2020 given concerns expressed by, at the least, U.S Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.