A trio of related companies have filed suit to stop the Securities and Exchange Commission from infringing the trademark of their auditing software product. Former SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said last August that the SEC would develop a new interactive financial statement filing system to replace its old Edgar system. The new system, known as Interactive Data Electronic Applications, or IDEA, would rely on Extensible Business Reporting Language, or XBRL, data tag technology, which the SEC is beginning to require large public companies to use for their filings.

However, CaseWare International, CaseWare IDEA and Audimation Services have long been selling a separate software product called IDEA for automating the audit process and performing data analysis. CaseWare International owns the trademark IDEA, while CaseWare IDEA is the developer and exclusive licensee of IDEA data analysis software, and Audimation Services is the sole distributor of CaseWare IDEA products in the U.S.

CaseWare claims it has used the trademark IDEA extensively since 1987, and the trademark was registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2001. The company complained last September when it learned of the SEC's plans (see CaseWare Claims SEC Infringed Its IDEA Trademark).

“Our actions result from the SEC’s surprising failure to take a responsible approach to our objections and simply find another, non-infringing trademark,” said CaseWare International CFO Cal Bruner in a statement. “This failure comes at a time when the SEC can ill afford to be seen as inattentive to its image. We are prepared to pursue all available legal remedies to protect the investment in our trademark IDEA, which the SEC actions now threaten to destroy.”

CaseWare has also been involved in XBRL technology, the company pointed out. “Our companies have participated in the XBRL consortium for 10 years,” said CaseWare IDEA COO Bob Cuthbertson. “The SEC’s announcement is an exciting development for the XBRL world and for users of financial data in general. We have no argument against the SEC’s initiative, just their choice of name.”

He noted that he was a member of the XBRL International Steering Committee for over three years and the company demonstrated its products at several XBRL International conferences, which SEC staff also attended.

“As a family-owned business, we have been systematically creating jobs in the high-tech sector since 1993, and have invested heavily in building the brand around the trademark IDEA here in the U.S.,” said Audimation Services CEO Carolyn Newman. “With this unfortunate choice of name by the SEC, we run the risk of losing our entire investment.  We’ve already seen confusion in the marketplace over this naming.”

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