PayPal Sues Pandora Over "Patently Unlawful" Logo

Left, courtesy of Pandora; right, courtesy of Paypal

The online payment platform argued the similar logo "diluted its distinctiveness."

Arguing that Pandora's minimalist logo "dilutes the distinctiveness" of its own branding, PayPal on Friday filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the music streaming service in Manhattan federal court. "Element by element and in overall impression, the similarities between the logos are striking, obvious, and patently unlawful," the lawsuit alleges.

In October 2016, Pandora announced it was redesigning its logo from a thin, serifed "P" into the chunky, sans serifed "P" that it is today. The color scheme was also changed from midnight blue to a softer shade of blue. By comparison, PayPal's logo, active since 2014, also features a minimalist-looking "P" in a sans serif font and sporting a blue color palette. PayPal's mark actually consists of two overlapping and slanted "Ps," whereas Pandora keeps it to one. Both P's lack a hole.

It is because of these similarities that PayPal believes customers of both companies are unable to distinguish the two, and that many are complaining about inadvertently opening Pandora instead of PayPal on their smartphones. The lawsuit includes various screengrabs, primarily from Twitter, of people noting the similarities. "Opened Pandora instead of PayPal during class, at least Drake came on," said one user. "Am I the only one who mistakes the PayPal app for the Pandora app?" asked another.

"Pandora's use of its infringing and diluting mark thus is causing and is likely to cause confusion as to whether Pandora’s services originate from or are sponsored by PayPal, and as to whether there is an association or affiliation between Pandora and PayPal," the lawsuit states, adding that some consumers are even asking whether the similarities mean that PayPal has purchased Pandora.

PayPal's lawsuit also points out Pandora's current struggles as a brand, saying that since it is primarily an ad-supported service, it "has no obvious path to profitability," especially given "overwhelming competition" from the likes of Spotify and Apple Music. The suit alleges that Pandora purposely "latched itself on to the increasingly popular" PayPal logo look-and-feel as part of its efforts to reverse its fortunes. (Pandora has made several moves recently that indicate it may be considering a potential sale.)

According to PayPal, it made attempts to resolve the logo issue "amicably," both by letter and by phone. After a letter was ignored, PayPal spoke with Pandora, which indicated it was unaware of any confusion about the logo.

"PayPal then wrote again and provided over 110 pages of examples of consumer confusion and chatter about the similarities of the new logo," the suit states. "These efforts by PayPal proved fruitless. Pandora abruptly ended discussions by making clear early on that it did not acknowledge widespread consumer confusion or frustration experienced by some PayPal’s users and was not willing to engage in future discussions."

Pandora declined to comment since the case is pending.

The suit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and seeks legals costs and unspecified damages. Unsurprisingly, it also called for Pandora to cease use of its current "P" logo and switch to something else. You can read the lawsuit here.

This article was first published on Billboard.com.

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