Merger Proposal Stirs Memories of Northwest Airlines' Name, Trademark Suit Against Wings Financial
APPLE VALLEY, Minn. -- This April will mark the four-year anniversary of a series of events that led to Northwest Airlines filing a lawsuit against Wings Financial Federal Credit Union for claims of logo and name infringement.
In April 2003, Northwest Airlines made the decision not to renew the credit union's ATM and office leases on the carrier's properties in certain cities. Northwest Airlines said it made the decision after Wings Financial, previously known as NWA Federal Credit Union, with the majority of its members employed by the carrier, said it could not pay a royalty/user fee the carrier was seeking for the use of its logo and other trademarks. The fee would have amounted to half of the credit union's net income or $6 million annually, Wings Financial President/CEO Paul Parish told members in an April 2003 letter.
In May 2003, the airline agreed to extend the leases beyond their July 5, 2003 expiration to March 31, 2004 and eventually for three years beyond that, but the dispute over the name and logo continued.
NCUA stepped in when a credit union member e-mailed Regional V Director Jane Walters to see if Northwest Airlines was indeed overstepping its bounds by asking for the royalty/user fee. Based on the evidence presented to her, Walters responded in a May 2, 2003 letter that the credit union had no authority to pay the fee "for the use of its own trademark" and Northwest Airlines "has no right requesting compensation to serve this field of membership."
Parish alerted members in a July 11, 2003 letter that Northwest had filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Minnesota claiming that the credit union had infringed on the airlines' trademarks. Both parties continued to negotiate when Northwest Airlines President Doug Steeland sent a Jan. 19, 2004 letter to all employees on the dispute. He applauded the strides they made with the lease extensions, but "to [their] disbelief," both parties remained deadlocked on the logo and name use.
In the end, NWA FCU received NCUA approval in December 2003 to expand to a TIP charter and in July 2004 changed its name to Wings Financial Federal Credit Union. In October 2004, Northwest Airlines and Wings Financial reached a settlement on the name and logo suit, but neither released any details on the outcome. --firstname.lastname@example.org