Name confusion among its members prompted the $625 million Clearview Federal Credit Union to file a complaint against Clearview Credit Inc., a Florida debt settlement company.
Filed May 20, the federal trademark suit is seeking a cease and desist including stopping the distribution of materials with the Clearview Credit name. According to the complaint, Clearview Credit has targeted and solicited Clearview FCU's members by mail "in an apparent attempt to trade on the goodwill established" by the credit union, which is based in Moon Township, Pa.
The CU first learned of the Tampa, Fla.-based debt settlement company after members came into the branches with mailers from Clearview Credit, said Matt Pritchard, the attorney representing Clearview FCU. Members had asked if the CU endorsed the firm or if it had expanded into debt settlement services.
According to Clearview FCU's complaint, on or about Jan. 5, 2009, Debt Reduction America Inc. changed its name with the Florida Secretary of State to Clearview Credit.
Pritchard said the day after the complaint was filed he sent a copy to Clearview Credit instead of officially serving the company to give it an opportunity to respond. As of June 3, both parties are in "active negotiations," he said. Calls to Clearview Credit were not returned by press time.
"We anticipate that we will be able to resolve this amicably," Pritchard said, declining to comment further.
Clearview FCU submitted trademark registration proof to Clearview Credit as well as to Credit Union Times indicating that it is the owner of the registered marks Clearview and Clearview Federal Credit Union. According to the complaint, the debt settlement company has used the mark Clearview Credit with the sale of its financial and debt relief services and promotional materials outside of Florida. The CU has more than 79,000 members in all 50 states including thousands in Florida, the complaint noted.
Clearview FCU was originally charted in 1953 to serve Allegheny Airlines, which changed its name in 1979 to US Airways. The CU followed suit with a new moniker, USAir Federal Credit Union, and in 1997 became US Airways Federal Credit Union. After expanding to a community charter, the CU changed its name again to Clearview FCU in 2004.
"Because of the historic underpinnings of the credit union, we are prepared to defend its reputation and protect its goodwill and to keep members from being confused," Pritchard said.