Judge Blocks Use Of Bank’s ‘Citizens’ Name

An article in Crain’s Detroit Business reported that Flint-based Citizens Republic won a preliminary injunction barring Citizens First from using the “Citizens” name at its four branches in Oakland County

Citizens was founded in Flint in 1871, and became Citizens Republic in 2006 after its merger with Republic Bancorp.

Citizens Republic is the largest bank-holding company in Michigan, with $14 billion in assets. Citizens Financial is the ninth-largest bank in the U.S., with more than $128 billion in assets.

Bill Fealko, a lawyer for Citizens First said they will appeal Tarnow’s ruling.

William Hartman, Citizens Republic’s president and CEO said that when Citizens First bought a rival bank in his backyard back in 2004, “we asked them not to rename it Citizens, but they decided to go ahead.”

“With all the bank mergers and acquisitions going on, everyone wants to change names, and you’re going to be seeing more of this,” said Citizen Republic’s attorney Glenn Forbis.

Next, Citizens Republic will take on banking giant Citizens Financial, which wants to change the name of its 122 Charter One banks in Michigan to RBS Citizens Bank.

Bottom line: Lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming, so do yourself a favor and stay away from names like “Citizens,” especially if there’s a chance you’ll end up going head-to-head.

Picking names that sound safe might not be safe at all. If your name looks or sounds like someone else’s in the financial industry, you could find yourself in a heaping pile of trademark problems.

Besides, who wants a me-too name? After all, some of the world’s the most successful brands have unique, distinctive names.

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