American Express, Visa Lawsuits Settled Over `Platinum Card'
NEW YORK -- American Express Co. said it settled lawsuits with Visa U.S.A.,
the credit-card association, and First USA, the credit-card issuer, over
American Express's trademark of the term "platinum card."
Under the terms of the settlement, Visa and its member banks, including
First USA, are permitted to continue using the term "platinum card" for
their products, so long as the Visa name, or the name of the bank issuer,
appears prominently on the card. American Express, meanwhile, will retain
its world-wide trademark on the term "platinum card."
The settlement included a confidentiality clause prohibiting the involved
parties from disclosing details of the agreement. But people familiar with
the agreement said no money exchanged hands.
American Express sued First USA in federal district court in Delaware in
September 1996, charging that a platinum card issued by First USA infringed
on the American Express trademark. Visa responded to the lawsuit with a
suit of its own against American Express in federal district court in San
Francisco in October. That suit alleged the trademark on the term "platinum
card" was invalid, because the term is generic.
American Express, the New York financial-services giant, began issuing a
platinum card in 1984, offering premium services for a steep $300 annual
fee. The First USA platinum card, which was introduced in June 1996, as
well as other platinum cards issued by other banks, generally do not charge
an annual fee, but do not offer as many services as the American Express
version. First USA is owned by Banc One Corp., Columbus, Ohio.
All sides said yesterday they were pleased with the settlement.
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