Chase Manhattan free to use CHASE FREEDOM mark

The US District Court for the District of Delaware has held in a declaratory judgment that Chase Manhattan Bank USA's use of CHASE FREEDOM in connection with credit cards does not infringe the FREEDOM CARD mark for the same services (333 F Supp 2d 239 (D Del, August 26 2004)).

Urban Television Network (UTN) owns the mark FREEDOM CARD via its financial arm Freedom Card Inc. Chase filed an action seeking declaratory judgment that its use of the mark CHASE FREEDOM in connection with credit cards does not infringe any of UTN's trademarks. UTN brought counterclaims against Chase for trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act and New York and Delaware law. Chase moved for a summary judgment against the claims.

The US District Court for the District of Delaware granted Chase's motion. It considered the established factors relevant to determining whether a likelihood of confusion exists under the jurisprudence of the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and found that the marks, when compared in their entirety, are sufficiently different to create an overall impression that is not confusingly similar.

The court recognized the strength of the CHASE trademark and found the inclusion of the CHASE house mark with FREEDOM enough to eliminate any likelihood of confusion with the FREEDOM CARD mark. The court further found that FREEDOM CARD is weak as (i) the word 'freedom' is commonly used in trademarks in the financial field, and (ii) UTN offered no evidence in support of the commercial strength of the FREEDOM CARD mark.

Likewise, UTN did not offer proof of actual confusion or evidence to support the argument that Chase adopted the CHASE FREEDOM mark with the intention to confuse consumers. The court agreed with Chase that consumers exercise considerable care in choosing credit card services. It further concluded that UTN targets consumers with poor credit or a low credit rating while Chase targets consumers with higher credit ratings and high income levels.

Accordingly, the court granted summary judgment to Chase on UTN's claims of federal and common law trademark infringement and unfair competition.

Alicia Grahn Jones, Kilpatrick Stockton LLP, Atlanta

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