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April 12, 2024

What's in a name? WEX sues HP over alleged trademark infringement

WEX building exterior File Photo / Renee Cordes WEX Inc., whose name is displayed on its Portland headquarters shown here, is suing to stop HP Inc. from using the WEX name in a new AI-enabled digital platform called HP Workforce Experience Platform, shortened as HP WEX.

WEX Inc. (NYSE: WEX), the Portland-based technology provider for global commerce, is suing HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) for trademark infringement, claiming the computer giant has illegally used the WEX name in a new digital platform enabled by artificial intelligence.

HP, headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., and formerly known as Hewlett-Packard, is a global maker of personal computers, printers and related supplies. The company is nearly three times the size of WEX in market capitalization.

WEX's complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, says the new product, HP WEX, “will cause irreparable harm to WEX and deceive consumers.” The 33-page complaint contends that any negative news about HP “would be devastatingly and unfairly associated with WEX" and seeks an injunction to stop HP's use of "WEX."

“There is no harm more irreparable than the loss of goodwill and reputation that this confusion will cause,” the filing continues. “WEX therefore asks the Court to preliminarily and permanently enjoin HP’s unlawful conduct and prevent this harm to WEX and its customers in Maine and throughout the United States.”

A spokesperson for HP told Mainebiz the company does not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit comes about a month after HP announced plans to launch the HP Workforce Experience Platform, shortened as HP WEX, which allows IT managers to configure, monitor and manage HP devices in one location. HP's March 7 press release shows the "TM" symbol for trademark after the "WEX" acronym.

WEX provides software for corporate payments, vehicle fleets and employee health benefit plans. The company is being represented in the case by Megan Bannigan, David Bernstein, Christopher Ford, Nicole Flores and Kendra Berry of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and Gavin McCarthy and Nolan Reichl of Pierce Atwood LLP.

"This case is about protecting WEX's global brand and its longstanding trademark rights," said Debevoise & Plimpton's Megan K. Bannigan.

"HP's use of the ‘WEX’ name is already beginning to create confusion in the marketplace and will lead customers to believe that HP is either partnering with or has acquired WEX's widely respected platform and software know-how to market HP's new services. WEX and its customers deserve protection from the confusion HP's actions will cause."

WEX name since 1989

WEX, previously called Wright Express Corp., said it has been using the name WEX since 1989 and formally rebranded as WEX in 2012.

The company said it holds several federally registered trademarks for WEX, covering software-as-a-service, along with five other trademark registrations. The company says that those all cover services that HP's "WEX" intends to mirror with services of the same classes.

“WEX tried to resolve this dispute amicably, but HP refused to stop its use of the WEX name,” WEX said. “WEX was therefore forced to file this lawsuit." 

In February, WEX posted fourth-quarter earnings and revenue that exceeded market expectations, and issued financial guidance for the year ahead. As of Thursday’s close on Wall Street, WEX shares have a market value of around $10 billion and are trading 31% higher than a year ago. 

HP shares, trading 1.45% lower than a year ago,  have a market value of around $28.7 billion.

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