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MetLife urges dismissal of Thrivent's Brighthouse trademark infringement suit

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MetLife urges dismissal of Thrivent's Brighthouse trademark infringement suit

MetLife Insurance Co. USA rejected allegations by a competitor that Brighthouse Financial Inc., the new company formed to house a substantial portion of the U.S. retail segment of MetLife Inc., infringes upon a trademark that has been in use since 2012.

Thrivent Finl for Lutherans sued MetLife Insurance Co. USA and Brighthouse Financial in September 2016, claiming the use of the new name is likely to cause confusion among potential customers with its Brightpeak Financial brand through which it markets term life, disability and individual annuity products to Christian millennials. But the defendants said in their answer to the complaint, which they filed Jan. 26 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, that there is "no likelihood" of confusion.

"Thrivent's BRIGHTPEAK FINANCIAL trademark is descriptive and used in a crowded field of third-parties using BRIGHT-formative marks, and thus the BRIGHTPEAK FINANCIAL trademark is inherently and commercially weak and at best entitled to an extremely narrow scope of protection," the defendants said in the filing.

They urged the court to dismiss the complaint with prejudice and to deny the relief Thrivent is seeking.

The Minneapolis-based fraternal benefit society asked the court to enter an order restraining the defendants from using the Brighthouse Financial name and to award an unspecified amount of monetary damages, among certain other relief. It claimed that the defendants were trading on and receiving the benefit of goodwill that it had "built up at great labor and expense ... over many years."

The information statements Brighthouse Financial filed on Form 10 with the SEC in October 2016 and December 2016 regarding its proposed separation from MetLife both referenced the Thrivent complaint. The company said it planned to defend the action vigorously.

MetLife intends to distribute at least 80.1% of the shares of Brighthouse Financial's common stock on a pro rata basis to its common shareholders to effect the separation. It expects to sell the remaining position at a later date.

Brighthouse Financial plans to conduct business through MetLife Insurance Co. USA as well as New England Life Insurance Co. and First MetLife Investors Insurance Co. MetLife Insurance Co. USA has been informing regulators in product filings obtained by the RateFilings.com offering of S&P Global Market Intelligence in recent weeks that it will be renamed Brighthouse Life Insurance Co., effective in early March.