Jury Rules Against Fair Isaac in FICO Credit Score Trademark Case

November 23, 2009

A federal jury in Minneapolis on Friday ruled against Fair Isaac Corp. in its lawsuit accusing Experian Plc and TransUnion LLC of antitrust and trademark violations for using a credit scoring system that competes with its widely used “FICO” score.

The verdict allows Experian and TransUnion to continue to use their “VantageScore” rating.

Experian and TransUnion, in separate statements, said the jury also found that Fair Isaac made a misrepresentation to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in registering a trademark for its credit score.

Fair Isaac said it plans an appeal.

In its October 2006 lawsuit, Fair Isaac alleged that VantageScore, which uses a 501 to 990 range, was confusingly similar to its FICO score, which uses a 300 to 850 range. It said use of VantageScore constituted trademark infringement, unfair competition and a deceptive trade practice. Another credit bureau, Equifax Inc., was originally also a defendant, but was dropped from the case in June 2008 when it entered a marketing agreement with Fair Isaac.
Credit bureaus get royalties when they sell credit scores to banks and other lenders, which use the scores in deciding whether and at what cost to make loans to consumers.

Creators of VantageScore contended the 501 to 990 more easily aligns with letter grades ranging from “A” to “F.” They set up the joint venture VantageScore Solutions LLC in 2006 to develop an alternative to FICO.

Barrett Burns, chief executive of VantageScore Solutions, said the case’s outcome could result in added market share.

“The lawsuit been a distraction, and I am sure there have been some lenders out there that have been hesitating using VantageScore,” he said in an interview.

Fair Isaac previously said it would appeal a July decision by U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery to dismiss some of its claims in the case.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Additional reporting by Al Yoon; Editing by Richard Chang)

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