Don’t Use Orange Circles Or ING May Sue You

Consider yourself on notice: If you are a bank or credit union using anything resembling this orange dot…

…look out. Orange circles may be enough for ING to take you to court next.

Last Wednesday, ING filed a trademark-infringement complaint in U.S. District Court against PNC Bank over use of orange balls.

Earlier this year, PNC launced a Gen-Y program called Virtual Wallet. The Virtual Wallet website uses orange circles for its main interface.

In its complaint, ING asserts that “a significant segment of the website prominently utilizes the color orange and orange-ball designs that are confusingly similar to ING Direct’s orange ball.” ING is seeking damages of greater than three times the amount that PNC has made using the orange ball logo, including interest.

ING filed for trademark protection on its orange ball design back in November, 2000. ING’s trademark application is specifically for orange circles “that are totally or partially shaded.” Since then, orange has become the predominant color of its Web site, retail banking locations and advertisements, according to the complaint.

PNC filed trademark applications for 9 different orange circle designs back in June, and two more in August.The last one was filed August 12, 2008, one day before ING filed its lawsuit.

PNC’s most recent trademark application is for “Punch the Pig,” a creative savings game. It says the mark “consists of a stylized orange circle with a stylized white piggy bank in the center and two blue concentric circles in the center of the stylized piggy bank.”

Key Question: Is ING Direct entitled to exclusive use of orange circles – used in any capacity – within the financial industry?

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