A bank by any other name just wouldn't be a bank.

The Taiwanese-based financial institution called Cathay United Bank has agreed to settle a trademark lawsuit filed by Los Angeles-based Cathay Bank.

The local Cathay, which claims to own the Cathay Bank trademark in English and Chinese, sued last year for $1 million in damages after discovering in late 2003 that its competitor, Cathay Financial Holding Co. in Taiwan, was planning to change its name in California to Cathay United Bank.

Such a name would "confuse the trade and banking public, especially the Chinese-American community in Southern California, which both parties serve," the suit said.

Cathay United was formed in 2003, when Cathay Financial Holding merged its two banking units, with 107 branches worldwide. Traditionally catering to business clients in Taiwan, the bank has strengthened its consumer division with 3.5 million credit cards issued by the end of 2004.

Cathay Bank is owned by Cathay General Bancorp., and has $6.16 billion in assets. It offers consumer services such as bank accounts and loans. Cathay Bank, which has gone by the same name since its founding in 1962, registered for the trademark in 1997, according to court documents.

In its suit, Cathay Bank alleges that its Taiwanese competitor filed an amendment with the California Secretary of State in February 2004 to change its name to Cathay United Bank, despite the protests of Cathay Bank. The suit seeks an injunction that would stop the Taiwanese company from using the name.

The Taiwanese company, in court papers, admits it amended its filings, but noted that it does not advertise locally for its services and has not used the name commercially. Instead, the bank does business as CUBT.

Terms of the recent settlement were undisclosed. However, a voicemail message at the local branch of Cathay United Bank says, "Thank you for calling CUBT. CUBT is the D.B.A. of Cathay United Bank Ltd. of Taiwan and is not affiliated with Cathay Bank or Cathay General Bancorp."

Both Cathays either declined to comment on the suit or did not return calls.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.