Truliant Federal Credit Union may have agreed to give BB&T Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc. more time to respond to a trademark-infringement lawsuit, but that doesn’t mean it has abandoned its contention that their proposed Truist Financial Corp. combination would create “digital marketplace confusion,” particularly in the Triad and Charlotte.
A federal judge approved Friday giving BB&T and SunTrust until Dec. 4 to file responses to the lawsuit. The banks were served Sept. 4 with a series of documents aimed at compelling a response.
Those responses were due Monday. Failure to respond would result in a default judgment being entered against the banks.
Truliant’s June 17 complaint was filed less than five days after the two banks announced — to mixed reviews — Truist Financial Corp. as the name for their new combined holding company and Truist Bank as the retail brand.
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP attorney Richard Keshian, representing BB&T, said in Friday’s motion that the financial institutions are engaging “in discussions to determine whether this matter can be resolved.”
Both sides said the requested extension “would promote judicial economy and efficiency.” However, Truliant said Monday “we remain resolute in our position that the best outcome is for BB&T and SunTrust to select another name.”
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 companies conducted a rigorous process to research, select and secure the new name,” BB&T spokesman David White said when the lawsuit was filed in the Middle District of N.C.
On Monday, BB&T said “we disagree with Truliant’s contentions and otherwise we cannot comment on pending litigation.”
Truliant wants the banks to be prevented from moving forward with marketing Truist at retail or online sites, 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, which is currently projected by Dec. 31.
“The credit union foresees overlap in how the brands are applied throughout the expanding digital marketplace,” Truliant said.
For example, Truliant president Todd Hall said Monday that “when a consumer searches online for a Truliant location or information about a Truliant product or service, while typing in ‘Truliant’ a search engine may automatically populate results including “Truist” and redirect consumers to that entity, especially given the direct geographic overlap in the respective markets.”
“We see difficulty for consumers who can’t distinguish between our names being led down the wrong path as they increasingly interact with elements like voice tech, digital assistants, machine learning and artificial intelligence, which may not necessarily incorporate visual brand elements,” Hall said.
Hall continued to express disappointment that the trademark issue “is coming from our soon-to-be former neighbor less than six miles down the road who is intimately familiar with our brand and yet chose such a similar name.”
“It speaks volumes that they are wholly unconcerned with trading on the brand equity that we’ve built over the last two decades.”
The banks announced Feb. 7 that BB&T would acquire SunTrust in a $26.7 billion deal that would form the sixth-largest U.S. bank.
The combined bank’s headquarters would be in Charlotte and the retail banking unit in Winston-Salem.
The banks’ shareholders overwhelmingly approved the merger July 30. N.C. Commissioner of the Banks’ approval was granted July 10.
BB&T chairman and chief executive Kelly King — who would hold the same titles with Truist — told analysts Oct. 17 that “we believe we are still on track for closing in the fourth quarter, but we can’t guarantee that ... because it is out of our control.”
King acknowledged the potential for reviews from the U.S. Justice Department, Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to spill over into next year.
Truliant faces a significant challenge to winning a trademark-infringement lawsuit against the banks, according to analysts and industry officials.
An online search came up with several “Tru” financial services brands, including: TruMark Financial Credit Union in Pennsylvania; TRU Financial Services Inc. of San Diego; Tru Financial Group of St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada; TruFund Financial Services in New York; Tru Insight Wealth Advisors in New York; and TruWealth Financial in North Dakota.