Interpretive Letter to Kathleen A. Wieland, William Blair & Company, L.L.C.
July 5, 2000
Ms. Kathleen A. Wieland
Director of Compliance
William Blair & Company, L.L.C.
222 West Adams Street
Chicago, IL 60606
Re: Use of Association Member’s Name
Dear Ms. Wieland:
I am responding to your letter of June 8, 2000, on behalf of William Blair & Company, L.L.C. ("William Blair"), concerning your proposal for the use of a modified corporate name by William Blair on certain public communications. Based on your letter, I understand the facts to be as follows.
William Blair proposes to use the name "William Blair & Company" without the use of the corporate modifier "L.L.C." on certain materials used to communicate with the public, including tombstone advertisements and sales literature. The full legal name of the company would continue to be used on other communications, including account statements, and in all agreements with customers, business partners and vendors.
You indicate that "William Blair & Company" is a registered mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. You also indicate that you believe no other member firm is using another name that may be confusingly similar to "William Blair & Company" such that the use of the corporate modifier would be necessary to distinguish the identity of another firm from that of William Blair. You provided two different specimen samples of the logo to be used and represented that both are registered marks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Under the general standards set forth in NASD Rule 2210(f)(2), "[a]ny communication used in the promotion of a member’s securities business must clearly and prominently set forth the name of the Association member." The staff has previously issued guidance indicating that a firm may meet the standards of Rule 2210(f)(2) if it omits the corporate modifier from its name in certain communications.1 Under the circumstances as described in your letter and based on your representations, we believe that the use of the term "William Blair & Company" would adequately denote the "name of the Association member" for purposes of this provision on the identified types of communications.
Please note that the opinions expressed herein are staff opinions only and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Board of Directors of NASD Regulation, Inc. This letter responds only to the issues you have raised based on the facts as you have described them in your letter, and does not address any other rule or interpretation of the NASD, or all the possible regulatory and legal issues involved.
Sarah J. Williams
Assistant General Counsel
1 See Letter from John M. Ramsay, NASD Regulation, Inc., to Sandra M. Ng, Gruntal & Co., L.L.C. (May 11, 1998) (available on the NASD Regulation Web Site). See also NASD Regulatory & Compliance Alert (June 1998).