Who Owns The Pentagon? PenFed Credit Union Sues Over Trademark Dispute
Jonathan Wachs Quoted in the Washington Business Journal
By Andy Medici Staff Reporter, Washington Business Journal
There might be two sides to every story, but for Pentagon Federal Credit Union, there are precisely five sides — with the familiar pentagon shape and the company’s current logo at stake in an ongoing trademark dispute.
The Tysons credit union, which focuses on military customers, filed a lawsuit against RoundPoint Mortgage Servicing Corp. Jan. 11 over its use of a multilayered pentagon shape for its financial services, arguing that its long history of using the well-recognized shape protects its use.
The lawsuit was in response to an effort by RoundPoint dating back to August, when it sent a cease-and-desist letter to PenFed asking the credit union to limit its use of the shape. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based company has since gone as far as to file a request Oct. 16 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel one of PenFed's pentagon trademarks.
PenFed, founded in 1935 as the War Department Federal Credit Union, said in its lawsuit it has used a pentagon shape since 1947 — after the iconic military headquarters was completed — and has filed several trademarks on variations of the pentagon shape over the decades, including a pentagon with a globe inside and one with an eagle shape
Disputes such as this often end in a settlement as the companies involved weigh the costs of an ongoing legal battle, said Jonathan Wachs, chair of the intellectual property group at law firm Offit Kurman. In some of those cases, the companies could agree on their own set of limitations. Otherwise, such cases could drag on indefinitely.
"Most of these cases settle out," Wachs said. "I don’t think people want to invest tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting over this."
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