Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., which has used the “On Your Side” slogan in its marketing and advertising since 1966, is suing a small Tennessee public adjusting firm that goes by the name On Your Side Adjusters Inc. for trademark infringement.
The Gallatin, Tenn.-based adjusting firm claims Nationwide is harassing it and retaliating after it questioned how the insurer handled certain claims.
The giant insurer has been asking the adjusting firm to cease and desist use of the On Your Side name since last April but Jeremy Snyder, owner of On Your Side Adjusters, insists he has done nothing wrong and says he will continue to use the name unless a court orders him to stop.
Snyder could be in court soon. After its several requests to Snyder that he stop using the name went unheeded, Nationwide filed suit on Feb. 28 in federal court in Nashville. The complaint charges On Your Side Adjusters and Snyder with trademark infringement, false designation and unfair competition.
Nationwide alleges that Snyder’s company has used the On Your Side slogan on its website, Facebook pages, letterhead and promotional materials.
Nationwide’s concern is that Snyder’s use of the mark will cause “confusion, mistake, and deception” for consumers and the marketplace and “dilute the distinctiveness” of the mark. The mark’s use by the adjuster also suggests there is a connection or association between the Tennessee public adjusting firm and Nationwide, the insurer argues.
Nationwide is seeking an injunction against Snyder’s use of the On Your Side name along with profits he has earned from its use and triple damages. In addition, Nationwide wants On Your Side Adjusters to destroy all of its marketing materials, distribute corrective advertising and pay all litigation expenses.
Nationwide says it is out to protect its trademark. It says that On Your Side Adjusters, by using Nationwide’s famous slogan, is “free-riding on the Nationwide’s significant investment in developing the On Your Side marks and causing Nationwide irreparable harm.”
Snyder claims the Nationwide’s actions, which he terms “harassment,” began after Nationwide “unjustly denied several insurance claims” and his firm then represented the insureds. “They did not appear to like the fact that we were looking close and questioning the handling of the claims and we feel this action was their response to that,” Snyder told Insurance Journal.
“Our view on the case is that this is nothing more then harassment on behalf of Nationwide insurance. They are trying to flex their muscles against a small company that specializes in looking over their shoulder when it comes to how they treat their customers,” Snyder said in an e-mail to Insurance Journal.
Asked to respond to Snyder’s allegation that it is acting in retaliation against On Your Side Adjusters, Nationwide issued a statement:
“Our filing in this case speaks for itself. However, it is important to note that Nationwide takes the legal protection of its intellectual property seriously. Nationwide’s famous On Your Side slogan is a valuable asset and we owe it to our members and consumers to protect this unique brand component.”
Snyder maintains that he has every right to use the slogan because his firm is not affiliated with any insurance company and is no position to influence Nationwide’s business. He also says his logo does not resemble Nationwide’s in any way. His website’s home page states, “We are not associated with any insurance company.”
According to Snyder, On Your Side Adjusters, which was founded in 2012, has no employees but contracts with from four to 12 adjusters depending on the time of year. It is licensed in and currently operates in Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, and both North and South Carolina.
Nationwide says it first used the Nationwide Is On Your Side slogan in 1966 and then began using On Your Side as a standalone slogan in 1999. Then in 1970, the company adopted the federally-registered seven-note jingle that is often accompanied by the tagline Nationwide Is On Your Side and which customers continue to associate with Nationwide.
According to Nationwide, it also uses the mark in its customer service, in various promotions and sponsorships and in association with the services offered by its property and auto repair networks—which include adjusting services and claims administration. The tagline also is part of the domain name for Nationwide’s customer login: nationwideonyourside.com.
Nationwide owns several federal trademark registrations for On Your Side for use in connection with insurance and financial services. These include On Your Side, Nationwide Is On Your Side, 877-On Your Side, On Your Side Auto Repair and Esta De Tu Lado.
“The Nationwide jingle and accompanying tagline have been used continually for decades,” Nationwide’s complaint says. “Throughout the years the jingle and tagline have been sung or spoken by a number of celebrities and heard by millions. Today the jingle and tagline are heavily incorporated into Nationwide’s television and radio advertising.”
Nationwide says it has invested hundreds of millions of dollars over the past five years alone in advertising and other activities to promote its On Your Side mark.
Nationwide may have thought there was a resolution in sight last summer when it determined that On Your Side Adjusters had apparently filed a new name and created a logo for National Claims Managers Inc. The insurer asked On Your Side Adjusters if it was planning on switching to that name instead of On Your Side.
But Snyder told Nationwide’s attorneys he had no intention of dropping the On Your Side name. Instead, in a July 29, 2013 email to Nationwide’s assistant general counsel, Snyder attached an earlier letter denying any wrongdoing and proclaimed:
“We have not violated any federal trademark laws and we have no intention of discontinuing the use of the name On Your Side Adjusters Inc. as a public adjusting firm or using the name OnYourSideAdjusters.com as a website. We are not a competitor of Nationwide Insurance and we are not in anyway associated with any insurance company nor do we market or sell ANYTHING marketed or sold by Nationwide Insurance.”
Snyder acknowledged to Insurance Journal that he did begin to use the name National Claim Managers Inc. and did not take a new claim under the name On Your Side Adjusters for almost a year. He says it was “a good faith attempt to avoid harassment and a legal battle with Nationwide insurance even [though] we did not feel we were legally obligated to do so.”
But now that Nationwide is suing, Snyder says he will not stop using the On Your Side name unless a court orders him to do so. He also said he plans to counter-sue Nationwide for costs and damages.
The case is Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. v. On Your Side Adjusters Inc., 3:14-cv-00586, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Tennessee (Nashville).