People’s United Bank Wins Ruling Defeating Injunction Against Its Renaming of Newly-Acquired Banks

June 22, 2010

Cleary Gottlieb won a victory for Connecticut-based People’s United Bank when U.S. District Judge Peter Dorsey rejected the request by Massachusetts-based PeoplesBank for a preliminary injunction against People’s United’s planned renaming of two banks it had recently acquired in western Massachusetts with the “People’s United Bank” trademark. PeoplesBank had complained that use of the “People’s United Bank” name in western Massachusetts would cause consumers to be confused that the banks were associated with PeoplesBank, and thereby infringe PeoplesBank’s trademark rights in its name. This ruling followed a six day evidentiary hearing before Judge Dorsey in May. The court ruled that PeoplesBank had failed to satisfy any of the requirements for a preliminary injunction, noting in particular its failure to show that it would suffer irreparable injury without an injunction. The court also rejected PeoplesBank’s contention that it was likely to succeed on its trademark infringement claim, noting that the word “people” is commonly used in bank names (it is currently used by 159 banks nationwide), the banks’ logos are dissimilar, consumers’ sophisticated decision-making in choosing among banks renders any name-based confusion unlikely, and the two banks already have a long history of coexisting without actionable consumer confusion in their shared cross-border market. Cleary Gottlieb had previously defeated PeoplesBank’s attempt to enjoin People’s United’s interim step of renaming each of its newly-acquired Massachusetts-based banks as “a division of People’s United Bank,” and PeoplesBank’s attempt to have this dispute resolved in federal court in Massachusetts, rather than Connecticut.