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CU sues on trademark when bank acquires failed bank
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (5/18/10)--A credit union based in Ann Arbor, Mich., has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against a bank with a similar name, less than two weeks after the bank acquired a failed bank that would put the bank and credit union in competition in the same market. Michigan First CU, a $550 million asset credit union based in Lathrup Village, Mich., filed the suit on May 12 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Ann Arbor seeking an injunction against First Michigan Bancorp Inc., which is based in Troy, Mich. According to the complaint filed, the credit union has adopted and used several service marks, all incorporating and prominently featuring the words "Michigan First." These include 'Michigan First Credit Union" for its credit union services, "Michigan First Credit Union Moneyworks,' for its internet banking services, "Michigan First Wealth Management Group" for its financial planning and estate planning services, and www.michiganfirst.com, the credit union's website. As a result of its "extensive use and promotion of the Michigan First marks, these marks have come to be associated in the public mind with credit union, banking and other financial services offered and sold by Michigan First," the credit union said in its complaint. The bank's use of the First Michigan Bank mark is "in conscious disregard of First Michigan's trademark rights," the credit union's complaint said, ands "creates a likelihood of public confusion, in that consumers seeking Michigan First's services will be diverted" to [the bank] defendant, and/or will erroneously believe that the services offered by [the bank] defendant are offered, sponsored, or endorsed by Michigan First, when in fact they are not." On April 30, state regulators closed Port Huron-based CF Bancorp, which operated 22 branches under the Citizens First name--19 of them in Michigan cities and many of them in the same market as the credit union. The regulators sold the bank's deposits and some of its assets to First Michigan Bank (Detroit Free Press via freepress.com May 1). First Michigan Bank is relatively new, having been formed in 2007. The suit seeks an injunction to prevent the bank from using the name.


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