The Securities and Exchange Commission has settled a trademark dispute with CaseWare International over the use of the IDEA name for the SEC’s interactive financial statement repository.

CaseWare and its affiliated companies, CaseWare IDEA and Audimation Services, filed suit against the SEC in March after the commission announced last August that it was replacing its EDGAR online database of financial filings with a more interactive system, which it called IDEA, short for Interactive Data Electronic Applications (see Audit Software Vendor Sues SEC). CaseWare has been selling its own IDEA auditing software since 1987, and it registered the trademark in 2001. The company said its customers were confused about the similarity in names.

As part of the settlement, the SEC has agreed to permanently discontinue its use of the mark IDEA in any form as a trademark or other source identifier on or in connection with SEC software and related goods and services. The settlement also provides that the SEC acknowledges that CaseWare International Inc. is the owner of the trademark IDEA. In return, CaseWare has voluntarily dismissed its civil suit against the SEC.

“While we were unhappy we had to go to court to get a settlement, we came away happy that they at least abandoned their efforts to try to come up with what we felt was a quite confusing name for their product,” said CaseWare IDEA COO Bob Cuthbertson.

There were no monetary damages. “With trademark disputes, it’s very difficult to arrive at a monetary settlement,” said Cuthbertson. “The problem is that you need to demonstrate financial damages, and even the recovery of legal fees is really a restricted provision in terms of trademark disputes.”

It is unclear at this point what the SEC will call the new system, or if it will just retain the longstanding EDGAR name, which is short for Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval. The new interactive system is slated to roll out in the next few months and will take advantage of XBRL, or Extensible Business Reporting Language, technology, which the SEC recently began requiring the largest public companies to use for their financial filings. The technology promises to make financial statements easier for investors to analyze and compare across different companies and industries.

“Changing the name of the disclosure database will not affect the interactive data rules implementation planned for this spring and summer,” said SEC spokesman Erik Hotmire. “Any plans to change the name of this disclosure database will be announced in the future.”

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