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No cease and desist here CUs cooperate instead
GREENSBORO, N.C. (3/23/09)--Two credit unions across the country from each other found out they're using the same slogan in their membership campaigns, "Membership Matters." But, instead of one issuing a cease-and-desist order against the other, the two took their cooperative nature to heart. Unitus Community CU, a $734 million asset credit union in Portland, Ore., created the "Membership Matters" slogan for its campaign, only to discover that Charlotte, N.C.-based Carolina Postal CU already had a trademark fo the phrase, said the North Carolina Credit Union League (Weekly Update March 20).
Deb McLean of Carolina Postal CU offered to lease the credit union's campaign slogan, "Membership Matters." Laurie Kriesl of Unitus Community CU took the offer as part of the cooperative philosophy of credit unions. (Photos provided by the North Carolina Credit Union League)
Pat Smith, CEO of Unitus contacted the $62.8 million asset Carolina Postal to see if something could be worked out. Carolina Postal turned out to be a willing colleague. "We've been there," Joy Watts, Carolina Postal CEO, told the league, "and I knew exactly what Pat was feeling. We've had a terrific campaign, or a new product, just rolled out, only to receive a 'cease and desist' letter from a credit union in another state. It was so frustrating when the other credit unions would not partner with us on sharing the phrase or slogan. Especially irritating was the fact that our territories and member base didn't cross over or even come close to one another." When she joined Carolina Postal in 2007, Marketing Vice President Deb McLean was instructed by the board to trademark every phrase and slogan she created. "I was surprised but I understood the frustration," she said. "I agreed to do it, but only if we could take it to the next level." The next level in this case turned out to be McLean contacting Unitus to offer a lease for the phrase for a year or two, according to Laurie Kresl, Unitus vice president of marketing. The credit unions' territories didn't overlap and they both had clearly defined, limited fields of membership in each state. Sharing wouldn’t hurt each other's brand nor cause member confusion, said McLean. The decision made sense, she said, adding that credit unions who demand the cease and desist are "extremely short-sighted. They are simply lock-stepping to their lawyer's tune to 'protect' the trademark versus thinking outside the box." Leasing a trademark could become an income provider for credit unions and serves the credit union industry as a whole to work together as a cooperative movement, McLean said. "Now more than ever, credit unions need to go back to our core philosophy and work together," McLean said. Kresl agreed. "This is yet another example of how we, as credit unions, can set ourselves apart from the banking industry."
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