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PNC sues Plaid for trademark infringement


2020-12-28 10:14:51


The suit alleges that Plaid improperly uses PNC's logo when it requests bank customers’ login credentials on behalf of fintech clients. Bloomberg

PNC Financial Services Group has filed a trademark infringement suit against the bank data aggregator Plaid, claiming that the way Plaid uses the PNC logo when it requests bank customers’ login credentials on behalf of fintech clients like Venmo violates several laws.

In a statement, the Pittsburgh-based bank said it filed the action to stop Plaid from misusing and misappropriating its trademarks and to help protect customers and their bank accounts.

"Their use of bank logos and trademarks can easily confuse a consumer, who may make the logical assumption that the app they are using is sponsored by their bank and that it is safe to provide their sensitive information, such as bank log-in information and account numbers, which could facilitate unauthorized movement of money from their accounts," PNC said in its statement.

A Plaid spokeswomen disputed PNC’s allegations.

"Plaid uses logos as references to make sure users pick and link the right bank, not as trademarks," she said. "We previously notified PNC about multiple changes that we already made that nullify any purported concerns. We will vigorously defend this case and continue to work with thousands of banks to ensure that consumers have access to the financial apps they depend on for their financial well being."

This is not the first time PNC and other banks have raised this exact issue with Plaid.

Last December, the $445 billion-asset PNC began blocking users of Venmo, a Plaid client, from getting access to their bank account data through the app, requiring several extra steps for them to do so.

At the time, the bank said it had seen fraud taking place through this channel. In an interview, Karen Larrimer, executive vice president, head of retail banking and chief customer officer at PNC, also objected to Plaid’s use of PNC’s logo in obtaining customers’ online and mobile banking credentials, among other things. Some observers said PNC was trying to get customers to switch from Venmo to Zelle. Plaid said it had been talking with PNC for more than a year, encouraging the bank to improve its security by using one-time passwords with Plaid.

In the legal complaint PNC filed on Monday, the bank accuses Plaid of trademark counterfeiting, trademark infringement, false designation of origin, false advertising and unfair competition under the Lanham Act and Pennsylvania statutory and common law.

The bank said Plaid, which is based in San Francisco, intentionally designed user interfaces using PNC's logo and color scheme "to misleadingly suggest that Plaid was affiliated or associated with, or sponsored by, PNC."

PNC is also accusing Plaid of deceptively collecting and storing bank customer information and selling it to third parties or using the data for services it sells to third parties. Plaid denies these allegations.


Author:Penny Crosman


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