Accounting and auditing software developer CaseWare is protesting the Securities and Exchange Commission's recent introduction of its IDEA interactive financial-filing system, claiming the name infringes on the trademark of CaseWare's own IDEA software.

The SEC's IDEA system is intended to replace EDGAR as a place for companies to file their financial statements and reports, and for investors to retrieve them (see SEC Offers Interactive System for Financial Filings). The SEC's new system uses Extensible Business Reporting Language, or XBRL, an interactive data-tagging format that makes it easier for investors to analyze and compare financial results. CaseWare says it too has been involved in XBRL development, and the confusion has led some of its customers to ask if the SEC is using its software.

CaseWare says it and its predecessors have been using the IDEA name for over 20 years, and that it registered the trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2001.

"We are completely dumbfounded as to why someone at the SEC did not do even the most rudimentary trademark search before announcing such a major project, or even worse, did such a search, then chose to ignore the results," said CaseWare COO Bob Cuthbertson in a statement. "As might be expected, use by the SEC of a trademark exactly the same as ours for software directed to the same community of users for overlapping functions has caused confusion in the marketplace with customers and prospects wondering if the SEC software is our software or vice versa. Despite the daunting prospect of a relatively small company challenging the resources of the SEC, we are taking the necessary steps to defend our trademark and the considerable investment we have made in it."

Cuthbertson told WebCPA that the SEC has filed its own application for a trademark, but the Patent and Trademark Office hasn't yet published the application. "When it is published, we will file an objection," he said. "In the meantime, since they have gone public, we have decided to take early action and our lawyers have written to their lawyers to cease and desist using the trademark." He is still awaiting a response from the SEC.

When asked about the matter by WebCPA, SEC spokesman John Heine reponded, "Based on our own research and that of our outside intellectual property counsel, we have concluded that the mark 'IDEA' is available for use and registration in the United States in compiling, editing, transmitting, using and analyzing electronic filings required by the SEC."

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