The low-cost Oslo-based airline Norwegian Air Shuttle is being sued by a bank that uses the same name over whether it has the right to use the word ‘Norwegian’ in its brand.
Bank Norwegian was once owned by Norwegian Air Shuttle, but it was sold several years ago, and now the airline is allegedly at odds with the bank’s new owners over whether they can still use the name and other branding elements that are commonly associated with the airline.
As an explainer, Norwegian Air Shuttle owns the rights to the brand name ‘Norwegian’ in Norway, and in 2007, the airline set up Bank Norwegian. But after facing financial difficulty, the airline sold its stake in Bank Norwegian in 2019 for more than $246 million but with a brand licensing deal in place.
Then, in 2021, following a bidding war, Bank Norwegian was acquired by the Swedish Nordax Bank Group, and now Bank Norwegian wants to officially change its name to ‘Bank Norwegian, a part of Nordax Bank AB’.
Bank Norwegian and Nordax say this name change is required under Norwegian law to make it clear who the owners of the bank are, but Norwegian Air Shuttle has objected to the Norwegian brand being associated with the Nordax brand.
The bank believes it not only owns the Norwegian trademark for banking services but even has the right to licence out the name to other banks. In order to seek legal clarification over who actually has the right to use the ‘Norwegian’ name, the bank is taking the airline to court.
For its part, the airline disputes the need for a court case, and a spokesperson has been telling local media that they “believe this is something we could have solved in a friendly way, outside the legal system”.
“In short, we disagree that the Swedish bank Nordax can use our brand as they have done after the acquisition, and we have asked them to change this,” commented Norwegian Air Shuttle’s communications manager Esben Tuman.
Under the trademark agreement they believe is in force, Norwegian Air Shuttle claims that the Norwegian name can’t be combined with the Nordax brand name.
Seemingly in retaliation, however, Bank Norwegian has threatened to withdraw its cobranded airline credit card product and a ‘review’ is currently taking place. The bank is also involved with the inner workings of Norwegian Air Shuttle’s frequent flyer programme, although both sides have confirmed that this relationship is not at risk.
Norwegian law does require banks to clearly state who owns the business, and it’s forbidden to market a bank under a brand that differs from the owner. Bank Norwegian will need to include the Nordax brand in its name, but the legal dispute will try to settle whether it can still include the Norwegian brand.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.