Simple Issues Bank Startup Mondo Cease And Desist Over Alleged Use Of “Safe To Spend” Trademark

Simple, the U.S. banking startup now owned by BBVA after it was acquired in early 2014, seems to have forgotten what it’s like to be a fledgling upstart already.

The company’s lawyers have sent yet-to-launch U.K. bank Mondo a ‘cease and desist’ over its alleged infringement of the trademark “safe to spend” after the phrase was spotted being used in a prototype of Mondo’s app in screenshots shared on Twitter and subsequently published in an article by TechCrunch.

In the letter (embedded below), Cowan, Liebowitz & Latman, representing Simple Finance Technology Corp, instruct Mondo to cease using the phrase “SAFE-TO-SPEND”, for which Simple successfully trademarked in the European Union as of April 21st in connection with its online banking business.

The letter also alleges that Mondo is using the mark “SAFE TO SPEND” in connection with “virtually identical goods and services,” and references TechCrunch’s article (sorry Mondo!) regardless of the fact that the original source was screenshots that first appeared on Twitter.

MondoNow, of course, Simple has every right to defend its own trademarks — though who would have thought the fairly generic phrase “safe to spend” could be trademarked — and in fact to some degree it’s obliged to do so in order to retain those trademarks. However, in this instance the issuing of a ‘cease and desist’ seems overly aggressive and bizarrely premature.

Mondo isn’t publicly launched and has yet to even secure a U.K. banking license, which, as we reported, it needs in order to fulfill ambitious plans to become a “full stack” bank in its own right, not just a mobile app running on top of an existing bank’s license and infrastructure, as is the case with most banking startups.

A simple note from Simple to Mondo’s founders alerting them to the EU trademark and suggesting they do not use the phrase going forward would surely have sufficed, rather than instructing lawyers on its behalf. But, hey, this is the litigious world we now live in.

I’ve contacted Simple to ask for comment and will update this post should or when I hear back.