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Similar CU names prompt lawsuit
AKRON, Ohio (4/12/12)--A name change for a Pennsylvania-based credit union serving members in Ohio and Pennsylvania has prompted a lawsuit by an Akron, Ohio-based credit union with a similar name, alleging the change violates federal trademark infringement and other unfair competition laws.

FirstEnergy Family CU, a $38 million asset credit union in Akron, Ohio, filed the suit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court  for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, against Greensburg, Pa.-based, $56 million asset FirstEnergy FCU, which  changed its name Jan. 1 from Allegheny Energy FCU.

The Akron credit union 's complaint said it has used its service mark FirstEnergy Family CU since at least May 22, 1998, and it has invested "significant resources" into using the name in its products and services offerings and its advertising and marketing. It also has referred to itself as FirstEnergy FCU, and/or FEFCU.

The Pennsylvania credit union does business in Northern Ohio, was aware of the other's use of FFCU when the name change occurred and did not obtain authorization from FFCU to use the FFCU service marks, the suit alleged. The suit alleges damages, but did not specify an amount.

"The actions of Allegheny …are likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection or association of Allegheny with FFCU, or as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of Allegheny's goods, service or commercial activity," said the court document.

The Ohio credit union is seeking temporary and permanent injunctions against the use of "FirstEnergy Family CU," "FirstEnergy FCU," "FEFCU," and any other similar marks that may cause confusion . It also is seeking destruction of all materials bearing the new name, removal of all Web pages with the name, and a written report on how the credit union is complying.

FirstEnergy Family also asked for damages to be trebled and for any profits the other credit union had made as a result.

The Pennsylvania credit union, on its website (April 11), noted that a recent expanded membership charter allows it to offer services and membership to all FirstEnergy Corp. employees and their families, since Allegheny Energy Inc. was acquired by FirstEnergy Corp. 

In it FAQ section about its new name, it said it "will also go by the abbreviated name FirstEnergy FCU." It advised members not to make checks out to the credit union as FEFCU, but they could write them to FirstEnergy FCU.

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