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31 Oct 2007

Which is the real First Niagra?

A trademark spat between two financial services companies reveals a deeper issue.

First Niagara Insurance Brokers use the domain FirstNiagra dotcom. First Niagara Financial Group, previously known as Lockport Savings Bank, changed its name in 2000 and tried to purchase FirstNiagra dotcom from the present owners, who refused. They then registered First-Niagra dotcom as their address for emails.

Customers of First Niagra Financial Group sometimes forget to include the crucial hyphen when emailing them, so their emails end up at First Niagra Insurance Brokers. Some emails contain sensitive information because (shock! horror!) customers sometimes send Social Security Numbers etc. in plaintext emails.

With clear evidence that customers are being confused by the similar domain names, the trademark infringement issue should't be too taxing on the judge, but this case may perhaps open Pandora's box on similar cases.

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