24 November 2021Trademarks

Barclays sues rival fintech over ‘Rise’ TMs

British bank Barclays has accused California-based fintech Plaid of infringing the bank’s ‘Rise’ trademarks with the launch of competing fintech incubator services.

Filed on 22 November at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, the suit alleged that Plaid has adopted the “nearly identical” trademark ‘FinRise’ for its incubator services, in full knowledge that Barclay is offering its own fintech incubator services under the trademark ‘Rise’.

The suit claimed that Barclays has used names and marks containing or comprising ‘Rise’ as the basis of its cultural and corporate identity for more than a decade.

“Barclays’ core values are Respect, Integrity, Service, Excellence and Stewardship. As is self-evident, the first letter of each of these values spells RISES,” said the suit.

Barclays holds three US trademarks for ‘Rise’—one for just the word ‘Rise’ and two for the ‘Rise’ logo.  It added that Barclays also frequently uses the term “FinTech” immediately following or within a few words of its Rise marks.

A Plaid spokesperson called the lawsuit "unfounded" and lauded the diversity and inclusion aims of its FinRise incubator.

In 2014, Barclays launched its Rise incubators, currently located in New York, London and India. The incubators provide “marketing, mentoring, networking, business development and financing opportunities and advice, educational programmes, co-working environments and event, office, research and development spaces for fintech companies”, according to the suit.

California-based Plaid builds data transfer networks that power fintech and digital finance products. This enables consumers to connect with their bank accounts and make payments to third parties.

According to the suit, Plaid has launched its own incubator-related services, which include many of the same services that Barclays provides.

Barclays added that prior to adopting the FinRise mark, Plaid had sought to do business with Barclays and Barclays’ incubator services.

Plaid’s FinRise incubator is designed to “support early-stage founders who are Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in launching their businesses,” according to the launch release.

In the claim, Barclays added that it is committed to bringing underrepresented populations into the RISE community, including by “developing specific programmes and services targeting female entrepreneurship and exploring new ways to support diversity and inclusion in the fintech field”.

Both incubators target the same consumers, said Barclays, adding that at least one member of Plaid’s initial FinRise cohort also applied to or enquired about Barclays’ Rise incubator.

"While Barclays applauds defendant’s mission, similar to that of Barclays, to promote diversity and inclusion in the financial technology field, defendant is not entitled to infringe upon Barclays’ valuable trademark rights in the process,” said the suit.

Barclays has also allegedly made multiple requests for Plaid to cease and desist from its use of the FinRise mark.

The bank has further alleged that Plaid will continue to use the FinRise mark if not enjoined, violating Barclays’ trademark rights. It added that Plaid’s actions have been undertaken in “wilful and blatant disregard of Barclays’ rights” and that it has resulted in a loss of profits by Barclays.

Barclays has asked the court to provide injunctive relief, an account of all profits derived from Plaid’s acts, triple damages, and an order that Plaid must file a report in writing setting out how it has complied with the injunction.

A plaid spokesperson told WIPR: "This is not a commercial programme—our goal is to create a more diverse and inclusive fintech community and we would hope to see the industry rally together around this cause. The lawsuit will not disrupt our goal, and we’re excited to open applications for our second accelerator cohort in the coming weeks."

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